Wenchuan quake cre­ates a pas­sion to help Asians BIO

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By CHANG JUN in San Fran­cisco junechang@chi­na­di­a­lyusa.com

Shi­dong Lin says he is an in­tro­vert and doesn’t feel com­fort­able speak­ing in pub­lic. But those traits did not stop the 42-year-old from es­tab­lish­ing the Chi­nese Mu­tual Aid In­ter­na­tional Net­work ( CMAIN), which reaches out to help Asians who suf­fer from nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and fam­ily calami­ties, or voic­ing his opin­ions when he feels Asian Amer­i­cans are be­ing mis­treated

“It all started with the Wenchuan earthquake,” said Lin.

On May 12, 2008, a magti­tude8.0 quake jolted the south­west China’s Sichuan prov­ince with Wenchuan as the epi­cen­ter, leav­ing more than 80,000 people dead or miss­ing, 374,000 in­jured and mil­lions home­less.

“We were deeply sad­dened at the news,” said Lin. “The over­seas Chi­nese com­mu­nity felt the same sorrow for the dead and the wounded.”

With nearly 800,000 Chi­nese liv­ing in the Bay Area, San Fran­cisco has the dens­est over­seas Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion in the world. There is a long his­tory of a close-knit re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and San Fran­cisco. Mi­grant work­ers from Guang­dong prov­ince first ar­rived in Cal­i­for­nia in the early 1900s.

In face of grave nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, the over­seas Chi­nese need to show sup­port and ex­tend help­ing hands to their com­pa­tri­ots, said Lin, adding, “Blood is thicker than wa­ter.”

On the same day the quake hit Sichuan, Lin and two friends, Wu Huaqiang and Liu Li­jian, used the In­ter­net to call on the Asian com­mu­nity to do­nate. Team­ing up with the Sil­i­con Val­ley Ts­inghua Net­work (SVTN), Lin and the vol­un­teers set up the China Earthquake Re­lief Com­mit­tee (SERC), which worked on help for vic­tims of the Sichuan quake.

Be­cause that task­force was formed in a rush, Lin said he did not have a char­ity or­ga­ni­za­tion in place, or an ac­count which could re­ceive do­na­tions, “so for all the do­na­tions com­ing in we had to use SVTN’s ac­count.”

Nev­er­the­less, “within 30 days, we re­ceived more than 10,000 do­na­tions from 30 coun­tries and re­gions, with a to­tal amount ex­ceed­ing $3 mil­lion,” said Lin.

Most of the vol­un­teers were en­gi­neers and pro­fes­sion­als in Sil­i­con Val­ley, said Lin, adding that they worked around the clock to sort out fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance and ar­range the ship­ping of tents and med­i­cal ap­pli­ances.

“Our do­na­tions were trans­mit­ted to Sichuan through Red Cross So­ci­ety of China, and were used for re­con­struc­tion there,” said Lin, adding that the amount of do­na­tions made the or­ga­ni­za­tion No 1 among all over­seas or­ga­ni­za­tions help­ing with quake re­lief.

Af­ter the earthquake re­lief ef­fort, Lin said he won­dered if there was a more ef­fi­cient and sus­tain­able way to serve the Chi­nese com­mu­nity in fu­ture dis­as­ters. “We have the en­thu­si­as­tic vol­un­teers. We have the best and bright­est in the Sil­i­con Val­ley. I felt we have enough re­sources to set up our own or­ga­ni­za­tion,” he said.

Later in 2008, Lin co­founded with Wu and Liu the Chi­nese Mu­tual Aid In­ter­na­tional Net­work, bet­ter known as CMAIN, and over­saw its oper­a­tion as chair­man.

“CMAIN’s mis­sion is to help Asian Amer­i­cans who are struck by nat­u­ral dis­as­ters or fam­ily ac­ci­dents. Mean­while, we serve as a bridge link­ing Asian Amer­i­cans with Chi­nese com­pa­tri­ots when sig­nif­i­cant events take place,” he said.

Lin em­pha­sized that CMAIN is a grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tion, “there­fore we need to pay at­ten­tion to is­sues the com­mu­nity is con­cerned about” and “united as a group to work out res­o­lu­tions if nec­es­sary.”

Re­cent is­sues of sig­nif­i­cance for the over­seas Chi­nese com­mu­nity, ac­cord­ing to Lin, have in­cluded of­fen­sive re­marks of “kill ev­ery­one in China” on ABC-TV’s Jimmy Kim­mel talk show aired on Oc­to­ber 16, 2013.

In the show, Kim­mel was speak­ing with a group of chil­dren, aged 5 and 6, about how the US govern­ment should pay back its $1.3 tril­lion debt owed to China, “Kill ev­ery­one in China,” one boy said.

“Kill ev­ery­one in China? OK, that’s an in­ter­est­ing idea,” Kim­mel said. He then posed the ques­tion: “Should we al­low the Chi­nese to live?”

Lin and CMAIN thought Kim­mel’s show crossed the red line.

“It’s not a bad joke, not an ac­ci­dent. It’s sheer dis­crim­i­na­tion,” said Lin, who most of the time is com­posed and calm. “Re­main­ing silent and be­ing the obe­di­ent cit­i­zen won’t res­cue Asian Amer­i­cans.” To protest the Kim­mel in­ci­dent and have their voices heard, Lin and CMAIN asked Asian Amer­i­cans to demon­strate on Nov 9, 2013, when other Asian Amer­i­can or­ga­ni­za­tions held protests.

Chant­ing slo­gans and wav­ing ban­ners that read “Liv­ing our Amer­i­can Dream”, Lin led his group around the Civic Cen­ter Plaza of San Fran­cisco. “We felt protest­ing was some­thing in­cum­bent on us,” he said.

Ear­lier this year, the Cal­i­for­nia Se­nate Con­sti­tu­tional Amend­ment No 5, or SCA5, was passed by the state Se­nate on Jan 30 with a two-thirds vote.

It would have al­lowed such pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions as the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia (UC) and the Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity (CSU) sys­tems — and even K-12 schools — to use race, sex, color, eth­nic­ity or na­tional ori­gin as a con­sid­er­a­tion for ad­mit­ting stu­dents or hir­ing em­ploy­ees.

The pas­sage of SCA5 caused a stir in Asian com­mu­ni­ties, with many fam­i­lies wor­ried that UC and CSU would ap­ply quo­tas on en­roll­ment. To bet­ter ed­u­cate the com­mu­nity, Lin joined forces with sev­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions on March 2 to put to­gether a town hall meet­ing in Cu­per­tino.

A panel dis­cus­sion among op­po­nents and sup­port­ers of the mea­sure drew an au­di­ence of around 300 and cre­ated a rip­ple ef­fect though the lo­cal Asian-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity.

“We’ve never seen a turnout like this in the 14-year his­tory of APAPA,”said Al­bert Wang, the panel’s mod­er­a­tor and Bay Area chair­man of the Asian Pa­cific Is­lan­der Amer­i­can Pub­lic Af­fairs As­so­ci­a­tion, an­other or­ga­nizer of the meet­ing.

Due to con­tin­u­ous or­ga­nized protests from the Asian- Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, on March 17 the Se­nate-ap­proved leg­is­la­tion was with­drawn from con­sid­er­a­tion by the state, mean­ing the bill is dead at least for this year.

Hail­ing the out­come as a vic­tory for all Asian Amer­i­cans, Lin said: “It proves one more time that we need to unite since unity is strength.”

In 2013, Lin quit his job as a project man­ager, and now works full­time op­er­at­ing the pri­vately funded Cal­i­for­nia South Bay Univer­sity.

Lin said he hopes to use part of the rev­enue from the school to fi­nance a com­mu­nity cen­ter for Asian Amer­i­cans in the Bay Area.

“Look around, Jewish people, Ja­panese, Kore­ans, they all have their venue for com­mu­nity gath­er­ings,” Lin said, “but not the Chi­nese Amer­i­cans, that ul­ti­mately lim­its depth and width of our ac­tiv­i­ties. ”

CHANG JUN / CHINA DAILY

Lin Shi­dong (right), with his wife Li Ling, runs Cal­i­for­nia South Bay Univer­sity, hop­ing rev­enue will fund a fu­ture com­mu­nity cen­ter for Asian Amer­i­cans.

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