While hundreds of USC students and staff gathered at the Tommy Trojan statue last night to pay their respects to Ying Wu and Ming Qu -- the electrical-engineering grad students murdered early Wednesday morning -- a debate raged on Chinese news sites and comment boards over whether Wu and Qu were asking to get shot.
They were sitting in a used BMW worth $10,000 that had recently been purchased by Qu, according to their friend Deng Kaifu...
... who has reportedly been posting rebuttals to the critics on Chinese social-networking site RenRen.com.
LAPD investigators think the unknown assailant, who's still on the loose, may have been trying to steal the BMW or otherwise rob the students.
According to the Los Angeles Times, this was the news headline on Chinese website 4735.com: "Two Chinese students were killed in Los Angeles because of showing off their wealth in a BMW."
Other reports indicate that many Chinese citizens -- under the protective cloak of Internet anonymity, of course -- have taken a similar victim-blaming stance. On the forum Eastbound88.com, a user called "lite" says this "anti-rich people" attitude has become quite common:
"you should read the comment section in the chinese news about this story. those netizens had no sympathy towards the victims. they said the victims were shot dead in a BMW, so they must be son and daughter of corrupt officials or crooked business people. there is something seriously wrong with the chinese public right now. people have bad morals and turned very anti-govnernment, anti-rich people, especially hatred towards government officials. every time an official dead either due to accident or murder, people would cheer in the comment section about the death."
Caixun.com, another Chinese site with a news-magazine feel, also ran a reaction piece today on the hateful comments.
Here is a (very rough) translation by Google:
"... many users gave two students labeled 'official second generation' second generation 'label, and issued a vulgar remarks. One from 'I wish to die rich second or official second generation of mobile phone users in Beijing, my hatred of official hatred of the rich, because they are beasts of the offspring, because they are heartless, official error ...' We can not 'My dad is the Gang,' 'My father is Li Shuangjiang these events, the' official second generation 'rich' a stick and killed."
It would appear that resentment is soaring, in the Communist country, toward families that are wealthy enough to send their kids to top American universities and try their luck at capitalism.
Another user at Eastbound88.com compares it to resentment within the U.S. -- and all over the world, really, as the global economy downward-spirals out of control -- toward the 1 percent.
Aka, Occupy Wall Street.
In China in particular, though -- home to the poorest of the poor -- the Times reports that "luxury cars have become a political issue ... because so many officials of the ruling Communist Party and their children drive expensive models."
In this case, the anger might be misguided. Wu was living in a cheap apartment at "gang-infested" Raymond and 27th -- a contributing factor to the 1 a.m. street shooting. And as their friend Deng Kaifu points out, Qu "did not buy a car in the first two years of studying until ... this term for the purpose of looking for a job." (Anyone familiar with L.A. knows job-hunting can be pretty impossible without a car.)
"I plead to all Chinese to stop the rumors about them," writes Kaifu. "Since coming to the United States, they have lived a very thrifty life."
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The interesting part is that he should have to defend the BMW at all. We will say, though, that this resentful attitude isn't relegated to China. We've heard our fair share of gripes from bitter Angelenos, as well, who claim some foreign-exchange students flaunt their wealth and social standing while attending universities here, like they're Asia's gift to the U.S.
But that really has nothing to do with the tragic double homicide of Wu and Qu, who perhaps didn't know how dangerous living west of Vermont can be -- and who by all accounts were a humble, quiet couple returning in the wee hours of Wednesday morning from a late night at the lab.