Trial by mass media


Peter Liang, a Chinese American police officer who shot and killed an unarmed African American man in a New York housing project stairwell in 2014, was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct last Thursday.  People who support Peter believe that this case is an accident and Liang should not be sentenced criminal punishment. They also started a petition on the White House’s website in order to get public attention on Peter Liang.

Last week, the case suddenly appeared on all my social networking sites including both Chinese SNS and American SNS. It is the first time that a story of Chinese American was so widely discussed in the group of Chinese international students. Last time the group Chinese international student discussing something so fiercely was to fight for our own rights to get the extension of OPT (Optional Practical Training, a beneficence for international students to extension our visa status after graduation).

This case is so influential that comments from all perspectives came crazily. Some media said that Peter Liang’s conviction is fair because he did not go through the routine before shooting, and he did not seek to treat the injured immediately after the accident. However, other media like Huffington Post, described the case that people are using an Asian American scapegoat to cover past White police officers’ manslaughter cases where White polices were not convicted. New York Post also quoted Liang’s lawyer’s sentence: “if Peter Liang were White, he wouldn’t have an issue… they bully Chinese. It’s discrimination.”

Actually same cases happened in China many times. One of the most influential case happened on 2006. An old lady sued Peng Yu, a young man, for knocking into her and caused some physical damage one her leg. Peng Yu insisted that he did not even touch the old woman. However, at that time, many similar cases occurred that some old people intentionally falls down to extort financial compensation. Under such circumstance, the vast majority people overwhelmingly blamed the old women for extorting Peng Yu. It turned out that the final trial was affected by public opinion: the result was greatly partial to Peng Yu; he only took 10% of the responsibility.

The case was fiercely discussed at that time. Almost all people involved in this case, both sides, their family, the judge and so on, received a lot of pressure. Their life was no longer in peace. Month later, they all intentionally “disappeared” out of public view.

6 years later, the “winner” of the case, Peng Yu, revealed that he did “accidentally” knocked into the old lady. However, the old lady did not hear the final confession; she has already passed away.

It is hard to say whether the trial of Peter Liang was affected by public anger about pass cases; it’s also unclear whether the trial will be affected by the public attention in the future. I tried to see Peter Liang’s case from an objective perspective instead of the perspective of supporting Chinese American. However, I found it very difficult for me to see it that way. Probably the truth of the case will be deeply buried in Peter Liang’s heart forever. My only hope is that innocent people will never be harmed.


In case you want to review the case:

New York Post

Huffington Post



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One Response to Trial by mass media

  1. sydhavely says:

    I saw these reports and also noticed Officer Liang’s intense sorrow over the incident. He’s no Wyatt Earp or rogue cop, that’s for sure. This is a disturbing case. Thanks for posting about it, Ria.

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