Chin is fighting to ensure soldier’s death ‘not in vain’

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John Liu dismmised supporters’ likening the probe of his fundraising to the anti-Asian discrimination and bullying Danny Chen faced in the Army.
By ALINE REYNOLDS  |  In light of Army Private Danny Chen’s death three months ago, Councilmember Margaret Chin and Council Speaker Christine Quinn have introduced a resolution in the City Council, calling on the U.S. Department of Defense to examine policies on the Army’s cultural diversity and sensitivity training for soldiers.

The resolution by Chin and Quinn was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Debi Rose and Mathieu Eugene. It coincides with a closed-door meeting Army officials held on Wed., Jan. 4, at the Fort Hamilton Army base in Brooklyn to inform Chen’s parents, OCA-NY President Liz OuYang and a few others of new information about the circumstances of Chen’s death. Army personnel came from as far as Chen’s Army field headquarters in Afghanistan to attend the meeting, according to George Wright, an Army spokesperson at the Pentagon.

OuYang and the parents’ spokesperson declined to comment on the meeting before deadline. They said a report would be given at an afternoon press conference held at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association offices on Thurs., Jan. 5.

The Army, which continues to investigate Chen’s death, recently linked the incident to physical and verbal mistreatment of the East Village resident by his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan. Eight soldiers have since been implicated in Chin’s death.

The City Council resolution is a signal from New York City’s legislative body that additional Army-wide action is needed to combat hazing and bullying in the armed forces, according to Councilmember Chin.

“The resolution calls on the U.S. military to institute comprehensive reforms in their recruitment and training with regard to diversity and cultural awareness,” she said. “It is my hope,” the councilmember added, “that Danny’s death will not be in vain.”

Chen’s death underscores the need for greater scrutiny and periodic evaluations of prospective and current soldiers to help identify those that are prone to behave “in a reprehensible manner,” according to the resolution.

“Regular and ongoing antidiscrimination and antiharassment training, specifically geared toward enhancing and heightening cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity and cultural diversity, is needed in all branches of the military,” the resolution states.

In respondse to the resolution, spokesperson Wright said the Army has had regulations and policies against hazing and bullying for “sometime.”

“Violations are dealt with in the framework of the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” Wright said. “Whenever there is probable cause to believe that these regulations have been violated, investigations are conducted, and when appropriate, charges are filed.”

In related news, local supporters of New York City Comptroller John Liu recently compared the federal government’s investigation into Liu’s mayoral campaign fundraising with the alleged racial harassment Private Danny Chen suffered prior to his death.

At a press conference held in mid-December at Confucius Plaza in Chinatown, Virginia Kee, a founding member of the Chinese American Planning Council, referred to Liu’s investigation as a “character assassination.”

“Worse than death, you lose your good name,” Kee said of Liu’s predicament.

Kee couldn’t be reached for further comment by press time, and Councilmember Chin declined to comment on the issue.

During a sit-down interview with Community Media’s editorial staff last week, Liu said his supporters’ words were “misconstrued,” and that he doesn’t believe they were actually trying to compare his plight to Chen’s death, which he called “tragic.”

“I think they were trying to compare some of the actions or words that were being used,” Liu said.

However, he continued, “I think the point is simple: I wouldn’t describe my circumstances to be tragic.”

That said, Liu added, “As an immigrant, as an Asian-American, I know for a fact that Asian-Americans and immigrants collectively face some type of discrimination or bias one way or another. Would I ever say that about myself? No, because I’m a sample size of one, and you cannot make any kind of deterministic conclusion about one person.”

Peter Cheng, a community activist based in Chinatown and a Liu supporter, said Liu’s rise in politics symbolizes the high aspirations of Asian-American immigrants.

“To our community, he’s someone to look up to,” Cheng said. “I don’t know if he’s faced discrimination, but I feel the media has been very harsh on John.”

However, the government’s mere scrutiny of Liu’s campaign doesn’t automatically mean that discrimination is at play, Cheng said.

“It’s normal and proper for the government to investigate if there’s any wrongdoing of a campaign of any official,” he said, adding, “Nonetheless, I hope that the government would equally treat all the candidates.”