The authorities in Alameda County, California, have created a special response unit focused on crimes against Asians, particularly older Asians.
The move last Monday came after a string of violent assaults on Asian Americans, including one in Oakland, California, in which a young man violently pushed a 91-year-old Asian man to the ground.
The video has sent a chill through the Asian American community. Two more Asian Americans, a 60-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman, were also attacked that same day – Jan 31 – and had to be taken to hospital, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
A 28-year-old African American has been arrested. He is a suspect in all three cases.
The incidents came just days after Mr Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man, died after he was similarly attacked while out on a morning walk in his San Francisco neighbourhood on Jan 28.
A 19-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and elder abuse in that case.
At a press conference last Monday in Oakland’s Chinatown, Alameda County district attorney Nancy O’Malley, announcing the task force, said: “The rapid increase in criminal acts targeted against members of the Asian community, particularly Chinese Americans, who live and work in Alameda County is intolerable.”
Last week, the Committee of 100, an influential non-partisan group of prominent Chinese Americans in business, government, academia and the arts, released a White Paper commissioned by the Economist Intelligence Unit on the contributions of Chinese Americans to the United States.
The release was in response to increased anti-China sentiment in “an age inflamed with resurgent racism, and with geopolitical tension reversing decades of fruitful exchange with China”.
“The US has reached a moment when it is critical to examine how diversity has benefited the society and how minority groups such as Chinese Americans have, over time, become identified with the country itself,” the report says.
Chinese Americans contributed more than US$300 billion ($373 billion) to US gross domestic product in 2019 through consumer spending, supporting three million jobs, the report says.
“There are over 160,000 Chinese American-owned businesses in the US, generating approximately US$240 billion in revenue and supporting 1.3 million jobs as of 2017,” it adds.
Last August , the United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in a note on the US, wrote: “Racially motivated violence and other incidents against Asian Americans have reached an alarming level across the US since the outbreak of Covid-19.”
It added: “Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans, including those of Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Burmese descent, among others, have been subject to racist, xenophobic attacks.”
It said the attacks included being spat on, blocked from public transport and beaten.
The Jan 6 storming of the US Capitol demonstrated the danger of anti-Chinese sentiment amplified to deafening levels by right-wing media.
Take, for example, Larry R. Brock, a retired US Air Force lieutenant-colonel photographed carrying zip-tie handcuffs on the Senate floor during the insurrection by hundreds of Trump supporters.
A week before, he wrote on Facebook that he saw no distinction among the Democrats, the Biden administration and “an invading force of Chinese communists”.
On Jan 27, President Joe Biden signed an executive action directing federal agencies to combat xenophobia.
“Today, I’m directing federal agencies to combat the resurgence of xenophobia, particularly against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, that we’ve seen skyrocket during this pandemic. This is unacceptable and it’s un-American,” the President said.
The Committee of 100 welcomed the statement, but feels more is needed, hence the White Paper.
Committee of 100 president Zhengyu Huang, who is based in San Francisco, told The Sunday Times: “Last year, we saw almost 3,000 documented cases of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian incidents.
“We knew we had to speak up forcefully, because racism and discrimination are unfortunate, negative aspects of society.
“Despite 175 years of contribution, we still suffer from the perpetual foreigner stereotype, and that stereotype has been exacerbated by two seismic trends – increasing tension and competition between the US and China, and Covid-19.”