Chinese Media: Where Are Chinese-American Elected Officials?
New America Media, News Report , Vivian Po Posted: Apr 26, 2010
After being targeted and victimized by African-American teenagers in a series of recent attacks, especially in the wake of the death of Tian Sheng Yu, 59, members of the Bay Area Chinese American community have reacted angrily to the violence.
Last Tuesday, Yu died from severe injuries after being beaten by two 18-year-old African-American men in Oakland on April 16, Friday. Yu had confronted them for attacking his 27-year-old son earlier.
“The Chinese community is very angry,” said Cindy Yip, anchor of Sing Tao Chinese Radio, one of the most popular Chinese radio stations in the Bay Area. Yip said that since these attacks, many listeners have called in to her show to voice their concerns and share their experiences of similar attacks or robberies in the streets and public transit in San Francisco and Oakland. “Many of them demanded justice and severe punishments on the attackers,” said Yip.
However, Chinese elected officials have been virtually silent on the issue.
Chinese media are criticizing the lack of visibility of elected Chinese officials in the Bay Area in response to these recent attacks on Asians. On April 25, Kai Ping Liu, an editor of World Journal San Francisco, wrote an editorial, “Where Are the Chinese Elected Officials?” Liu wondered why, given a significant number of elected officials of Chinese descent in the Bay Area, none have taken an active role in organizing any events or rallies in the wake of these attacks.
“Interestingly, these Chinese-American officials,” Liu noted, “who said they would fight for the rights of Chinese Americans during their campaigns, have remained silent or become partially voiceless, as if these acts of violence, which are directly related to the lives of Chinese Americans, are unrelated to one’s rights.”
Liu suspected that Chinese-American officials have not been vocal because these violent crimes touched the sensitive topic of race relations. But he also pointed out that law enforcement in San Francisco and Oakland have declared the series of recent attacks on Chinese in San Francisco and Oakland are not hate crimes.
The Chinese media have also been careful that their coverage not further inflame racial tensions.
Recognizing increasing tensions and resentment from community members, which can easily be interpreted as messages to provoke further racial tensions, the Chinese media tried to balance their reports with positive representations of African Americans expressing their support to the victims.
On April 23, the day after the two suspects were charged with murder, World Journal published a top story =“Suspects Who Attacked Yu are in Court” on its front page.
Apart from reporting on the details of what happened in court, the article also highlighted the fact that members of the African-American community have shown sympathy for Yu’s family. It mentioned Monique Agnow, an African-American woman who approached Yu’s widow and son in Oakland’s Chinatown after the two left the courthouse. “She said to Yu’s wife, Wang Zhirui, ‘We [African Americans] are not all bad. We are also minority group. We don’t want to see racial confrontations. I am glad you understand that, god bless you.” The photo displayed with the article on the front page showed Agnow’s right hand rested on Yu Jincheng’s left shoulder as she expressed her condolences to the family.
Similar coverage was evident in Sing Tao Daily Bay Area. On April 24, Sing Tao Daily reported on a Buddhist vigil and fundraising event for the Yu family organized by SEIU last Friday. The article focused on the presence of support from the African-American community. It wrote, “Donors included African American residents. They especially expressed their support and concern to Yu’s wife, who just arrived at the vigil.” The photo of the story also showed two women, one Asian, the other African, joining hands with a “Rest in Peace” sign in the background.
In fact, earlier reporting written by Sing Tao Daily also indicated the Yu family did not wish to racialize the incident. Wang Zhirui has worked as an In Home Support Services (IHSS) home care provider for an African-American senior before the attack happened. In the article “Yu’s Wife Holding Her Tears Back Symbolizes Strength within Chinese Community,” published on April 22, the reporter noted, “She [Wang] said she has stopped working for the African American senior because of her current health condition. However, she will not allow this incident to change her attitude in serving her previous employer or any future employers regardless of their ethnicity.”
Apart from that, Chinese media also helped Chinese community leaders promote the message of resolving the problem without raising racial tensions.
On the day Yu’s death was announced, World Journal published an article on Oakland Chinatown Community leader Carl Chan, who is also chair of the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council. “Carl Chan pointed out, although Asians were attacked by African Americans in this incident,” the article noted, “and Asian seniors are always the targeted group, this incident is much more serious than most cases. However, not all African Americans are bad, he did not want to see hatred emerge between the Chinese and African Americans.”
In fact, Chan has asked the Chinese community to learn from the African-American community and to urge reforms in law enforcement to prevent similar crimes from happening again.
In a Sing Tao article “Oakland Residents Declare War on Acts of Violence in Rally,” published last Tuesday, Chan was also quoted as saying, “Chinese Americans should learn from African Americans. In the Oscar Grant BART incident, many came out to demonstrate and gained the attention of City Hall and lawmakers to take measures to limit the power of the police. We Chinese Americans have experienced fatal attacks repeatedly, but we lack any form of large-scale protest, we do not cause trouble. As a result, tragic incidents happen again and again.”
The Chinese media said they would continue to monitor the development of the issue and help to address public concerns about future actions.
“The Chinese community will keep on urging public officials and law enforcement officials to honestly address the issue of Asian victimization in these crimes,” said Yip.
Today, both World Journal and Sing Tao Daily reported on Wang’s appearance at the Sunday services in Allen Temple Baptist Church, the largest African-American church in Oakland. According to the reports, Wang was invited by the church and over 300 church members voiced their condemnation of similar violent crimes. During the service, prayers and donations were also offered to the Yu family, and Wang showed her appreciation to the African-American community. “We all live in America," she said in the World Journal. "We are one family. We are not separated by race or skin color. I hope everyone can treat others as family members, so [this kind of] tragedy will never happen again.”
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