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"It could've been any of us" | "我们的共同写照"

A USC graduate student was found dead in his apartment on July 24 after allegedly being attacked by at least three assailants while walking homeXinran Ji, 24, was an  engineering student from China who was beaten a block away from his apartment, police say. Five people are in custody in connection with the deadly assault.

In the wake of this tragedy, we are re-posting a story published in April 2012 by Mingshi Di, who recounts the aftermath of the killings of Wu Ying and Qu Ming. The Chinese USC graduate students, both 23, were shot while sitting in a car near campus. Two suspects were arrested, one of whom, Bryan Barnes,  plead guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. The other, Javier Bolden, still awaits trial on murder charges. Di, a fellow international student, shared how the murders tore through the tight-knit Chinese community at USC.



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.




悲剧总是不期而至。我是在事发当天早晨登入人人网时获知这起枪杀案的。人人网上充斥着焦虑,大家不约而同地询问着被害同学的消息,并且悲愤地表达着对洛杉矶警局和学校公众安全部门无力确保校园周边安全的不满。而流露得最多的还是来自中国留学生对这两条年轻生命的惋惜和悲伤。虽然当时被害人的名字还未公布,但心中的愤慨和悲伤已经无法压抑。从远离家乡一起踏上这片土地的那一刻起,同为留学生的我们已经彼此紧密相连。相似的记忆和经历此时此刻更是让我们心连着心。想到这里,我不禁感到远在中国的我的父母读到这条消息该是如何的焦虑。于是我赶快拿起手机给爸爸发了一条消息:”我很好,别担心。” 那时是北京时间凌晨两点。



然而,主流媒体对此事的报道却让人心寒。他们误导性地描绘:“富有的中国研究生在他们价值六万美元的全新豪华宝马车中被杀。”一篇LA WEEKLY的博文引用另一个消息来源说他们驾驶的宝马价值四万五千美元,更评论道,如果这两个中国学生是因被劫车而杀,“那将是富家子弟云集的南加大的一幅终极写照。”

如此冷漠的和带有批评性的报道让我震惊了。在中国留学生间传递的信息与之截然相反:瞿铭驾驶的是一辆远远低于报道价值的陈旧的二手宝马车。然而, 撇开报道是否属实,令人不能理解的是,即便瞿铭驾驶的是一辆全新的宝马车,当两条鲜活无辜的年轻生命被残暴地夺去时,媒体为何要将焦点放在他们驾驶的车上?一位被邀请在烛光守夜活动中发言的吴颖的亲友说道:“我们强烈要求媒体不要背弃职业理念。我要求这里的媒体职业人士把你们的手放在你们的胸口承诺你们将真实地报道这个案子。”

事实上,大众对中国留学生都是“富二代”的印象对我们任何一个人都是不公平的。 作为国际学生,我们为了寻找一个更好的机会来完善自己,离开了熟悉的家,离开了亲戚和朋友,希望有朝一日能变成一名国际性的人才。我们和所有人一样,努力的学习,尽情的享受青春和生活,同时背负着自己的重担。我们总会时不时的担心毕业以后拿不到工作签证学以致用,我们总会想到父母为了负担昂贵的学费辛苦工作而愧疚,每次想家,我们只能结伴去圣盖博的中餐馆尝尝久违的家的味道。正是因为经历如此的相似,我们对于吴颖和瞿铭的死如此的心痛。




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2 thoughts on “"It could've been any of us" | "我们的共同写照"”

  1. My sentiments exactly regarding the media coverage on the 2012 murders. So much of it was steeped in xenophobia. Thank you for your piece.

  2. The neighborhood around USC is not a safe place to be around after 8pm. If you want to send your kids to USC, they need to rent inside the university campus. If you want off-campus housing, look at Koreatown, Alhambra, and Monterey Park.