Vincent Chin and Simon San were born and murdered decades apart on two different continents, but the common factor is the callousness and indifference with which their cases have been dealt with by the investigating police and prosecutors.
Justice is off the menu when it comes to these Chinese deaths. While the police finally admit that an acknowledgment of the racist dimension of Simon's murder by a white mob outside the family-run takeaway in Edinburgh in Scotland would have resulted in stiff sentences, the men have been given 24 months, 26 months and five years for the thug who landed the killer blow that smashed Simon's head against the pavement. As we all know by now, they will walk after serving only a third of that minus remand time. Only one year more than the sentence imposed on the laptop rioters who posted their encouragement of the unrest on Facebook. What is this telling us about values in Britain today?
This insulting sentence echoes the $3,000 fine and three years probation imposed on the white Detroit car-workers, Richard Ebens and Michael Nitz, who beat Vincent Chin to death with a baseball bat in front of witnesses one summer evening in 1982. Out on a bachelor party, Vincent was hunted down before finally being cornered in a McDonalds where he was held by Nitz while Ebens pulped his skull with the bat.
Both killings were preceded by racist epithets. The Wikipedia account says:
Ronald Ebens was arrested and taken into custody at the scene of the murder by two off-duty police officers who had witnessed the beating. Ebens and Nitz were convicted in a county court for manslaughter by Wayne County Circuit Judge Charles Kaufman, after a plea bargain brought the charges down from second-degree murder. They served no jail time, were given three years probation, fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $780 in court costs. In a response letter to protests from American Citizens for Justice, Kaufman said, "These weren't the kind of men you send to jail... You don't make the punishment fit the crime; you make the punishment fit the criminal."
After an appeal and a retrial, Ebens was cleared of all charges despite witnesses including two off-duty cops. The lenient sentences for Ebens and Nitz led to a galvanisation of US Asian Americans who then formed the pan-ethnic Asian American movement that's given the community some clout since Chin's murder. I wonder if San's case will prompt an equivalent marshalling of Asian community forces in Britain.
On Monday 12th September, Amnesty International is screening a film about the case by Curtis Chin: “Vincent Who?”, a documentary on Asian American political empowerment. He'll be part of a Q&A session afterwards, with Paul Hyu (Chinese Elvis) and Col. Brian Kay OBE TD DL, Chairman of Islington Chinese Association.
Asian Pacific Americans for Progress & Islington Chinese Association presents
Monday, Sept. 12, 2011
Amnesty International – The Human Rights Action Centre
17-25 New Inn Yard
London EC2A 3EA
Ticket reservations here
The Leith police dismisseth us, but the Lothian community pay their respects in this tribute.