Chinese lives matter

This is not about what you might think it's about. Hong Kong, and indeed the PRC, do not feature.

Yik Oi Huang

Let me tell you about Yik Oi Huang. A grandmother, she was 88 years old on Tuesday 8th January 2019. Early that morning she left her house in Visitacion Avenue, San Francisco, and went for her morning walk - a staple activity of Chinese senior citizens which we could usefully imitate. It would be the last time she walked anywhere.

In the park someone attacked her, beat her brutally, and left her for dead before apparently entering her home and then fleeing the area. She was hospitalized with head injuries, a broken spine, hand and ribs. Allow me to repeat: she was 88 years old. Any level of violence towards someone that old would be shocking, but the injuries inflicted on this old lady went several steps beyond that term.

SFPD arrested a suspect 11 days later. He was 18 years old, and black. The suspected motive was robbery. At this point he is still awaiting trial, though I would imagine that he stands a very good chance of his charges being upgraded to murder.

Yik Oi Huang did not die immediately. She suffered in hospital for the next 360 days before finally - mercifully - passing away on 3rd January this year.

You remember the protests filling the streets of San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and other places with large Chinese communities? You remember Chinese youths breaking shop windows and setting light to businesses across San Francisco? No, of course you don't - it never happened. This event barely registered outside San Francisco. Try searching "Yik Oi Huang site:cnn.com" on Google. Now try doing the same with "Michael Brown site:cnn.com", "George Floyd site:cnn.com" by contrast - hundreds of thousands of results.

Shuo Zeng

Shuo Zeng was 34 years old on New Years Eve 2019, but would not live to see 2020. With friends at the Starbucks in Montclair District, Oakland to celebrate the New Year and his birthday. He was a research scientist at Aspera, having graduated from Kansas State.

Oakland is notorious for laptop thefts, and today would see another one. Shuo Zeng had his laptop with him, not unusual behaviour for a techie. A teenager ran in to the Starbucks and grabbed the laptop, ducked out through the door being held by an accomplice, and jumped into a car driven by a third man.

Unwilling to lose his laptop, Shuo Zeng bravely - but unwisely - pursued them. He reached them as they got into the car. The car took off and Shuo Zeng was knocked against a parked car. He suffered head injuries and died in hospital.

The police found the suspects and charged them all with special circumstance murder and second-degree robbery. All three men were black, at least two of them from San Francisco.

CNN at least have one article about Shuo Zeng on their site. They do not, of course, mention the race of his assailants. One wonders if they would have done the same had he been black and his assailants white.

Wenjian Liu and the Can Man

There have been other, more famous incidents. Wenjian Liu was one of the two NYPD officers executed by Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley on December 20 2014. An elderly Chinese man collecting cans in San Francisco was abused by two black men in a video that went viral in February this year. Chinese residents in areas with a significant black presence know who they need to be wary about, and it's not the police.

My point

Over 99% of the US population, myself included, felt that the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25th May was appalling, and that the action taken against the officers involved was entirely justified. Police brutality is unfortunately not that rare in the USA. However, I'm baffled as to why anyone thinks there's an obvious racial component to this. Floyd was nicked for passing a counterfeit bill - the actions of the arrest seem heavy-handed, but not the arrest itself. Do they claim that the officers were particularly brutal because he was black? Where's the evidence?

It is instructive to compare the criminally negligent behaviour of Derek Chauvin holding Floyd's head down for far too long, with the criminally negligent behaviour of Shuo Zeng's laptop thieves in driving away with no regard for his safety. In neither case did there seem to be intent to kill, but both cases resulted in death. Chauvin had country-wide protests screaming for accountability - which they already had in part, since he had been fired from the force and charged with murder-3 in record time. Shuo Zeng had a quietly grieving family and local community, but that was it. No protests, no riots. Barely a headline.

The black community might claim - unjustifiably, in my view - that Black Lives don't matter enough to the USA in general. But it seems to me that there's a stronger case that Chinese Lives don't matter as much as Black Lives do.


  1. There's a difference between agents of the state killing people and random criminals killing people that your article misses

  2. Gasman: that's certainly true, and I agree that police brutality is a significant problem that's on the states and feds to resolve. (I will resist making the cheap shot that the families of the above probably didn't much care that it wasn't an agent of the state that killed them)

    That said, let's look at the numbers. The rate of fatal police shootings per million was 10.13 for Native Americans, 6.6 for black people, 3.23 for Hispanics; 2.9 for white people and 1.17 for Asians (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_use_of_deadly_force_in_the_United_States#Racial_patterns). Certainly seems that there's a major problem with police officers shooting dead black people, more than 2x as often per population.

    From a Washington Post fact check, there were 511 officers killed in felonious incidents and 540 offenders from 2004 to 2013, according to FBI reports. Among the total offenders, 52 percent were white, and 43 percent were black. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/01/09/are-black-or-white-offenders-more-likely-to-kill-police/). Given whites are 73% of the population and blacks are 13%, that gives us just under 6 white people to each black person. Although black people are shot by police twice as often as you'd expect by population, they are over-represented in killing police by a factor of 4 - thus, much more likely to be in a situation where a police officer shoots them.

    You can prove anything with statistics, but it's not obvious that black deaths at the hand of police officers are actually out of proportion.


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