It’s time US set its own house in order

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

The dis­ap­pear­ance of Zhang Yingy­ing, a vis­it­ing Chi­nese scholar at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Ur­banaCham­paign on June 9 has shocked many in China and the United States. As peo­ple watch closely the court trial of sus­pect Brendt Chris­tensen, a se­ri­ous ques­tion raised again is: How safe are US cities?

This ques­tion has be­come espe­cially im­por­tant for Chi­nese, as an in­creas­ing num­ber of them travel to the US as tourists or send their chil­dren to US col­leges to study. Ac­cord­ing to the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion, more than 328,000 Chi­nese stu­dents were en­rolled in US col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties for the 2015-16 aca­demic year, ac­count­ing for nearly a third of the to­tal for­eign stu­dents in the US. The fig­ure, how­ever, does not in­clude a grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese chil­dren en­rolled in K-12 ed­u­ca­tion schools. Be­sides, the num­ber of Chi­nese tourists to the US hit 3 mil­lion in 2016, and the fig­ure has been grow­ing fast since the US loos­ened its visa pol­icy in 2014.

Many Chi­nese know crime rates in US cities are high. Their per­cep­tion has been largely shaped by Hol­ly­wood crime movies, news re­ports of the huge prison pop­u­la­tion and fre­quent mass shoot­ings in the US. In re­cent years, that per­cep­tion has been fur­ther fed by cases of Chi­nese stu­dents fall­ing vic­tims to vi­o­lent crimes.

In Jan­uary 2016, 19-year-old Jiang Yue, a stu­dent at Ari­zona State Univer­sity, was shot dead in Tempe, Ari­zona, by Holly Davis af­ter a mi­nor in­ci­dent in­volv­ing their cars. In Jan­uary 2014, Ji Xin­ran, an engi­neer­ing stu­dent at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, was beaten to death by four peo­ple while walk­ing home from the cam­pus. In April 2012, Qu Ming and Wu Ying, two stu­dents also of USC, were shot dead in their car, which was parked about one and a half kilo­me­ters from the cam­pus.

True, many US cities are safe, even very safe. But the mur­der rate in US is sev­eral times higher than that in China, its neigh­bor Canada and the in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions in Europe. US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ac­knowl­edged this bru­tal re­al­ity in his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress on Jan 20 when he re­ferred to “the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our coun­try of so much un­re­al­ized The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA. chen­wei­hua@ chi­nadai­


On June 30, Trump said he was send­ing fed­eral help to fight crime and killings in Chicago that have reached “epi­demic pro­por­tions”. Chicago has seen 320 mur­ders and 1,703 shoot­ing vic­tims so far this year. Imag­ine what the sit­u­a­tion was like ear­lier, as I was told by a New Yorker that the crime rate has come down a lot.

In­deed, the rate of vi­o­lent and prop­erty-re­lated crimes has dropped sharply in the US since the 1990s. But it is still much higher than in many coun­tries. The mur­der rate rose again in 2015, how­ever, and ap­pears to have con­tin­ued last year. A Pew sur­vey last Novem­ber showed that 57 per­cent of the vot­ers in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion said crime has got­ten worse in the US since 2008, a re­flec­tion of their deep con­cern for safety.

Many blame the easy ac­cess to guns as a ma­jor cause of the high mur­der rate in the US ...

Many blame the easy ac­cess to guns as a ma­jor cause of the high mur­der rate in the US, while oth­ers point to the cul­ture of vi­o­lence, which is get­ting worse thanks partly to Hol­ly­wood movies and video games with vi­o­lent con­tent. Some at­tribute the high crime rate to the stress peo­ple are un­der due to the US’ poor wel­fare sys­tem com­pared with other in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions, for ex­am­ple, in terms of paid leave and free pre-school ed­u­ca­tion.

The US has en­gaged in in­ces­sant wars since its found­ing 241 years ago and con­tin­ues to in­ter­fere in other coun­tries’ in­ter­nal af­fairs. It’s time it looked in­ward and waged a war on crime to set its own house in order.

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