As Chinese-Americans across the U.S. protest the manslaughter conviction of NYPD officer Peter Liang, Chinese students in the U.S. have been conspicuously absent from the demonstrations. Some expressed concerns about a political form they've never come across, while many are indifferent about social issues and American politics.
Ann never really paid any attention to demonstrations prior to going abroad to the U.S. Her parents specifically told her to stay away from political gatherings.
But last Saturday, the 28-year-old Chinese PhD student in Boston took part in demonstrations that swept across the U.S. to defend Peter Liang, the Chinese-American New York police officer who has been in the center of attention and heated debates for the past few weeks.
Rookie cop Liang was convicted of manslaughter and official misconduct on February 11 over the 2014 death of Akai Gurley. The unarmed black man was struck in the chest by a bullet accidentally discharged by Liang when the officer was spooked by a noise while patrolling the unlit stairway of a public housing building in Brooklyn. Liang faces up to 15 years behind bars.
At first Ann was worried that the demonstration would be chaotic or even dangerous, but she found that it was peaceful and the protesters were calm. The organizers had applied for a permit and the demonstration was limited to a park.
There were no conflicts at all, the police were friendly, and from octogenarians to toddlers, everybody walked in an orderly manner while shouting slogans.
While being part of the event was an eye-opener for Ann, she was one of only a few Chinese students who took part in the demonstrations. Most still shy away from these activities - some worry about the safety of protests, while others are disinterested in the internal affairs of a foreign country.
Calling for justice
Wang Tian is proud of the fact that his words were read by over 10,000 people in the U.S. in just four hours.
The Los Angeles-based organizer of protests against Jimmy Kimmel Live! and ABC in 2013 over comments he felt were prejudiced against Chinese said he read about Liang and immediately sent out a WeChat public message to call for demonstrations.
Within a few minutes, he received phone calls from many friends that he met during the 2013 demonstrations. Within hours, people started chat groups and talked about organizing demonstrations in 15 cities. The protests quickly consumed all his free time, as he received more than 9,000 new messages in a matter of hours.
Wang has long been active in organizing demonstrations in the U.S. He said it was due to his childhood experiences that he insists on fighting discrimination and "pursuing justice and equality."
Wang Tian left China in 1994, when he was 10 years old. He first migrated to Singapore, then Australia, then the U.S. He said he was regularly bullied because of his race.
When Wang migrated to the U.S. he felt liberated. He says in the U.S., people can express their discontent, but are bound by law to refrain from violence. He's gradually grown to appreciate demonstrations as a way to voice his concerns and pursue justice.
No exact data was available at this point, but Wang estimated 100,000 people participated in demonstrations nationwide.
According to media observers, most of the people who participated were mobilized by associations for Chinese-Americans that are organized according to which of China's provinces they or their forefathers came from and local Asian-American chambers of commerce, but few Chinese students were involved partly because they weren't reached by these groups.