Chinese students at UVA react to day of violence, aftermath

By Hong Xiao in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-08-15 12:44

Chinese students at the University of Virginia are trying to process a deadly clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters over the weekend in their usually peaceful college town.

"What makes me really sad is after the riots, many people and media think those Nazis, those extremists are victims. For the riots, they should take all the responsibility!" said Bai, who did not want his first name used.

"As a Chinese in the US, I hope we can live in an environment without discrimination and violence, everybody equal, so we can focus on studying or working," Bai said.

Bai, a graduate student at the School of Engineering at the university in Charlottesville, said he still couldn't believe that the violence took place in the city. He said all the activities on the campus were suspended on Saturday.

Bai stayed at home on Saturday after the university sent an email on Aug 4 advising students to pay attention to their safety.

A federal civil rights investigation is underway after a 20-year-old Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr., allegedly rammed his vehicle into a crowd of counter protesters at a "Unite the Right" rally, killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old local woman, and seriously injuring scores of others.

White nationalists descended on the city to rally against plans to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a city park.

An AP reporter and photographer who were on the scene Saturday estimated the white nationalist group at about 500 and the counter-protesters at double that.

"Look at the counter protesters; most of them are local residents who live a peaceful life and love the place they live in, so that's why they linked arms to form a barrier to resist the extremists," Bai said.

"I have to say, against Nazism and against extremism is a basic for people with a conscience," he added.

UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan wrote in an email on Aug 4 that UVA believes "that diversity is an essential element of excellence, and that intolerance and exclusion inhibit progress. We also support the First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. These rights belong to the 'Unite the Right' activists who will express their beliefs, and to the many others who disagree with them. There is a credible risk of violence at this event, and your safety is my foremost concern."

Jiang (who did not disclose his first name), also a graduate student at UVA, said that when the violence broke out on Saturday, he was on his way to a cinema downtown.

"The scene was chaotic," Jiang recalled. Jiang said basically all the stores in town were still closed, and the atmosphere on campus was tense.

The Associated Press and Yuan Yuan in Washington contributed to this story.

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