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Chinese students' security concerns in U.S. grow

(Xinhua)    09:10, June 12, 2018

As enough grief concentrated in this June, many Chinese students in the United States found they are facing more challenges on campus.

(Photo/Xinhua)

A Chinese father last Friday appealed for justice at a press conference in Los Angeles for his murdered 19-year-old daughter in opposition to a prosecutor's arrangement with the perpetrator to mitigate criminal punishment.

His daughter Jiang Yue, a Chinese exchange student and sophomore at the Arizona State University in Phoenix, was murdered in January 2016 by Holly Davis after a traffic accident. Davis had a handwritten note to her boyfriend before the shooting, indicating she would be on the news.

Prosecutors initially sought to charge Davis on 14 criminal counts, including first degree murder, aggravated assault, disorderly conduct and endangerment. However, a new arrangement offered by the local attorney's office showed the criminal would only face a 25-year sentence and up to 250,000 U.S. dollars in restitution in exchange for pleading guilty to second degree murder and dismissal of all the other charges.

On Saturday, a memorial for Zhang Yingying on the first anniversary of her kidnapping was held near the bus stop at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). This 26-year-old Chinese visiting scholar was kidnapped on her way to sign a house lease last year and has not been seen or heard since then.

Police arrested 28-year-old Brendt Christensen on June 30, 2017, who was a former UIUC doctoral student and charged with the kidnapping, torturing and killing of Zhang. The trial for him is set for April 2, 2019.

On the same Saturday, a group of demonstrators, including many Chinese students, broke the summer silence at University of Southern California (USC), where the school gynecologist George Tyndall's sexual misconduct scandal was reported last month. With simmering anger, the protesters and their supporters marched demanding more voices from students to be heard.

More than 400 USC students or former students have reportedly contacted the university via a hotline or dedicated website to address concerns about the gynecologist. His sexual misconduct dated back to the early 1990s, including improperly photographing students' genitals, touching women inappropriately during pelvic exams and making sexually suggestive remarks about their bodies.

According to the Los Angeles Times, some colleagues of Tyndall feared that the gynecologist was targeting the university's growing population of Chinese students. His office even decorated with some Chinese elements including a map of China and bamboo plant, as a way to approach more Chinese students. Those Chinese students often had a limited knowledge of the English language and American medical norms.

The prestigious institutions in the United States have been attracting Chinese students far from their home. According to the most updated data from the Ministry of Education of China, the total number of Chinese students studying overseas exceeded 600,000 in 2017, an increase of 11.74 percent over that in 2016.

In USC, a leading private research university located in Los Angeles downtown, 45,500 students were enrolled in the 2017-2018 academic year, including around 5,400 from the Chinese mainland. Most of them had read a tragic news in 2014, when Chinese student Ji Xinran was beaten to death by four local young men who attempted to rob him as Ji was walking home from a study session.

Two of the murderers were convicted of first-degree murder, another one pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and the fourth defendant is awaiting his trial.

"Without students, there is no USC. We are the promise of tomorrow. We are the future leaders of USC," said Viva Symanski, one of the Justice for Saturday's Trojans March organizers. A transparent and independent investigation was called for in the rally.

Amid accusations against the gynecologist, C.L. Max Nikias, president of USC, announced his plan to step down on May 25.

USC Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Quick said last month that there was no evidence that any one group of students was affected more than others when he was asked about the gynecologist's targeting of Chinese and other international students.

But Ariel Sobel, another organizer of Saturday's rally, said: "I know Chinese culture makes it very difficult to talk about sexual abuse, sexuality in general. We hold this event in a visible, meaningful and authoritative way to help out many of the women who are dealing with a mass trauma."

Wade MacAdam, who works with UC Berkeley Police Department's Safety Programs, told Xinhua in an interview last year after Zhang Yingying's tragedy that safety has always been a real issue for international students to take into consideration seriously in the country, especially for those from China, as they are more likely to be "easy target."

MacAdam said that they find students from China are very affectionate and warm to people around them, which might make them vulnerable when it comes to safety.

"We just want to remind them that some people might want to trick them, or to prey on them," he explained.

The famed American attorney Gloria Allred, who has spent almost her entire career fighting sexual misconduct, showed up to support the students' campaign.

"We have students of all races, not just in the United States. We are looking for justice for all of them," she said. "You do not have to be a citizen of this country in order to have rights."

"You are somebody's daughter, you are somebody's sister, you may even be somebody's mother. We want to help you, because you matter, your life matters, what happens to you matters," Allred said.

The 76-year-old lawyer also empowered more women to speak up, and Chinese students should not be intimidated because of language and cultural barriers.

"Reach out to us or reach out to other attorneys who want to help. And we will assist, we will have translators, we will do everything we can to support you, to assist you, to protect you, and to help you," she said.

MacAdam also advised that, once in emergency, international students should call police with no hesitation. "We are accessible and approachable, please don't be afraid of us. We are your friend. Call us if there's anything you need."

However, without more actions putting in place, there is never going to be a payoff for students in the United States.

"We hold this event for the community to show solidarity, for the many women who were abused or harassed and made uncomfortable, by not only George Tyndall, but the university that protected him," Sobel said.

After the recent lawsuit filed against Tyndall and USC on behalf of one of the students, Allred said more and more USC and former USC students have joined them.

"We will be amending our lawsuit either on Monday or Tuesday, and we are going to be adding more than 20 young women who are going to have the courage to stand up and say USC has to be accountable," she said.

The USC has been sued by some former students over the scandal in separate lawsuits.

The Consulate General of China in Los Angeles expressed its concern over the scandal on May 16, requesting the university to take serious action to investigate the issue and protect Chinese students from illegal acts.

Serving as a bridge for Chinese students and scholars, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association on May 30 met with John Thomas, chief of the USC Department of Public Safety (DPS), encouraging students to bravely speak up against any violation of their rights.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Xu JiaWei, Bianji)

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