On Tuesday, a Chinese student studying abroad in Los Angeles, California was sentenced to 3 years in prison for her involvement in an infamous assault that took place in Rowland Heights Park on March 30th, 2015.
In that incident a group of Chinese study-abroad students attacked, kidnapped and tortured a fellow “parachute kid.” Allegedly, the violence was induced by a range of petty quarrels over a restaurant bill, boy troubles and social media mockery of one student’s hometown of Shanghai.
The victim, surnamed Liu, was persuaded by a fellow classmate to join her in a private conversation somewhere quiet. The classmate then lured Liu into Rowland Heights Park, where she was ambushed by several other students who began attacking her. Liu was stripped naked, burned with cigarettes and kicked aggressively. With a pair of scissors, Liu’s attackers cut off her hair and forced her to swallow the strands. They then forcefully shoved her face into the ground and demanded that she wash the hair down with some sand.
In February, three of the students involved in the bullying case were given prison sentences, ranging from 6 to 13 years. Some other students who are suspected to be involved have fled the country.
On Tuesday, Zheng Lu, 20, became the fourth student sentenced for the crime, receiving a three year sentence after pleading guilty for assault, the Los Angeles Times reports. Her sentence is the shortest yet handed out.
Yunyao “Helen” Zhai, the supposed organizer of the atrocities, was given the longest sentence at 13 years. Zhai’s two other accomplices — Xinlei “John” Zhang and Yuhan “Coco” Yang (both 19) — are currently serving prison time.
Zhang was sentenced to 6 years for his minimal involvement in the incident. The student only ran to fetch a pair of scissors used in the attack, but did not perpetrate any bodily harm to the victim himself. Yang was sentenced to 10 years for kidnapping and assault as well as inflicting bodily harm.
Out of the 6 students facing charges, 3 are minors.
A judge said the case reminded him of William Golding’s 1954 novel “Lord of the Flies,” a fictional story about what happens when a bunch of boys are left stranded together on a deserted island devoid of grown ups.
The students in the case seem to agree. In a statement read before she was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Yang said:
This is a wakeup call for the ‘parachute kid’ syndrome. Parents in China are well-meaning and send their kids thousands of miles away with no supervision and too much freedom. That is a formula for disaster.
In her own statement, Zhai echoed that same sentiment:
They [Zhai’s parents] sent me to the U.S. for a better life and a fuller education. Along with that came a lot of freedom, in fact too much freedom. Here, I became lonely and lost. I didn’t tell my parents because I didn’t want them to worry about me.
The court case has raised concern about home-stay programs offered to Chinese students in the US, an industry that reportedly suffers from lack of regulation.
According to the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, California was home to some 15,000 foreign high-schoolers in 2014, more than 9,200 of which were Chinese.
“If he’d never left my side, that would have been better,” lamented Zhang’s father to court reporters in February.
By Robin Winship
[Images via Sina]