Hundreds of Chinese international students gathered on USC campus yesterday evening to hold a candlelight vigil for Wu Ying and Qu Ming, the two Chinese students tragically killed near campus the night before. Walking through the crowd and watching all the young and familiar faces around me, I couldn’t help feeling a deep connection with the deceased victims and everyone standing in the crowd. Really, it could’ve been any of us.
Tragic stories always come unexpectedly. I found out about the murders yesterday morning when I logged onto Renren, the Chinese equivalent of Facebook. My news feed was inundated with anxious inquiries about the identities of the victims, outraged comments about LAPD and the campus Department of Public Safety’s inability to enforce security around campus, and most predominantly, an overwhelming grief that was wrenching the heart of all Chinese students. Names of the victims weren’t released yet at that time, but I did not need to know their names to feel the grief and indignation. We had already been knit together with the same identity from the day we set foot on this continent thousands of miles away from home, leaving behind the same memories and people so dear to us. I picked up my cell phone and typed a message to my Dad: “I’m okay. Don’t worry.” It was 2 am back home.
One sentiment that pervades the student community is the deep condolence towards the victims’ parents. No matter how the media and skewed public opinion depict Chinese parents' ready willingness to spoil their children with designer clothes and luxury cars, or their tiger-mom-style ambition to “control” their children’s life path, we know for sure that Chinese parents pour their life into their only child. As much as they want their children to receive the best education abroad, sending their only child across the Pacific is an internally conflicting idea for them. Luckily for me, I was able to have my parents visit me a couple times over the past few years. But for many Chinese international students, their parents might have never set foot in America and do not have the slightest idea of what their life is like here. Most of them are too busy working back home to afford their kid’s expensive tuition. A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine excitedly told me that her parents had visited her during Chinese New Year. “It’s good that they came,” she said. “Now they finally know what my life is like here. They used to be really worried.”
Tragically, Wu Ying appears to have missed her last chance to taste the sweetness of home three months ago. Wu Ying’s friend Jia Silu told me that she planned to go home last Christmas but had to defer her flight which was later cancelled. The victims’ parents will soon be on their way to finally see where their children laughed, studied and lived. I could only imagine what it is like for the parents who sent their children off with hope a year ago only to receive such news that crushes all dreams. It breaks my heart to imagine my parents going through it.
However, mainstream media seems to have taken no sympathy toward the tragedy, misleadingly portraying the victims as wealthy Chinese graduate students killed in their new “luxury BMW” worth $60,000. A blog post in LA Weekly, which cited from another source that the car was worth $45,000, even commented that if the Chinese students were indeed killed from a carjacking attempt, “that would pretty much be the ultimate depiction of wealthy USC at odds with the ghetto on which it sits.”
Such indifferent and critical tones stunned my eyes. Words are circulating in the Chinese student community that Qu Ming was in fact driving an old second-hand BMW that was worth far, far less than reported. But even if it was a new BMW, it does not justify this horrible act of violence. “We urge the media not to betray professional ethics,” said a family friend of Wu Ying who was invited to speak at the vigil. “I want all media professionals here to put your hand on your heart and promise that you will report the story truthfully.”
Indeed, the wild stereotype of the spoiled wealthy second generation of Chinese student is unfair to any of us. Being international students, we left our parents and friends in search of an opportunity to better ourselves and become successful global citizens. We study, play, enjoy life as hard as anybody else does, but carry heavier burdens on our shoulders. More than often, we fret over the chance of getting a work visa to put everything we’ve learnt to use; we feel guilty for having our parents work so hard back home to afford our tuition in American dollars; And when we get home sick, we take a few friends who’ve already become our family to San Gabriel Valley to get a taste of home. We feel the loss so deeply because we all share the same experiences.
At this moment, the Chinese Student Association and Chinese Students and Scholars Association are working very hard together to try to make the neighborhood a safer place. “We are going to have a board meeting with other student organizations next week to talk about the next step,” said CSSA’s president Peter Wang. “This is not just about Chinese students. It concerns the safety of everyone at USC. We want everyone to have stronger awareness about safety issues.”
After the vigil, students lingered around to talk. As the crowd dispersed I started to see quite a number of non-Chinese students who came with hearts full of compassion. They told me that it had been a tragic loss no matter where the students came from. Yes, the tragedy should ring a bell for all including school officials, LAPD, all students and the media. Action should not go out with the candle light. The victims have passed away but the living ones need to find a better way.
May the deceased rest in peace.