The Death of The Two USC Chinese Students: Whose Fault Is It?

The judge dismissed the law suit against USC brought by the parents of the two Chinese students who were shot dead last April near campus.

“The suit had been brought by the parents of Ying Wu and Ming Qu, two electrical engineering graduate students from China who were gunned down in an off-campus neighborhood last April during what police believe is was a botched robbery. The shootings shook the USC student body and generated discussion over safety in and around the South L.A. campus. The parents filed a lawsuit that claimed the USC website misled the students by touting the school’s safety and security measures, including off-campus security guards. But Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson ruled the suit was factually insufficient.”

The victims’ parents seem to blame the university’s misleading safety claim for the death of their loved ones. So the logic is to find out whether the safety claim is misleading and whether it was what killed the two students.

From my limited research for this article, I don’t really find a safety claim from the university’s website that said anything about crime or safety around campus. Especially for someone who is from China and has limited knowledge about the American gun culture and the university’s environment, it is very hard for them to comprehend what those means.

The university is located in a bad area of Los Angeles without doubt, but I doubt if the two Chinese students or parents understood the meaning and connotation of bad areas in the American context. Also to my knowledge, the part of safety concern plays little in the choice of university among a lot of Chinese, who are usually focused on the school ranking and its academic reputation.

The second question is whether it’s the misleading safety claim that killed the two students, which meant they trusted the university area was so safe that they lowered their caution. These two students were both second-year graduate students who were going to graduate in one month when the tragedy happened. In these two years, Department of Public Safety had sent out a considerable amount of crime alert emails to every USC student, therefore the two victims should have a reasonable expectation of danger around the campus and should have understood that the life-threatening consequence of hanging out on the street after hour in certain areas.

They were shot at 1 a.m. when they were chatting and lingering in a car outside of the house in one of the bad areas. An average American will understand how dangerous it is, and a street-smart person won’t hang out on the street at that time in that area. For some reason, this didn’t alert the two victims. But we will never know whether it was because they were not as street-smart as an average American or they put too much trust on the USC safety claim.

What comes to my mind, after reporting the story and talking to some of the victims’ friends, the two victims were in love and didn’t see each other that day, so the boy went to the girl’s house to meet her. They had to stay in the car outside, because she had a roommate. Maybe that’s why, they studied there for two years and thought they knew the area well enough to ignore the red flag, and the urge to talk to each other wiped away the last safety concern in their mind.

Before I came to USC, I had learned that the campus is in a bad area from my American friends in China. As a Chinese native, I didn’t quite understand what it really meant by bad areas, because in China, where guns are prohibited, bad areas usually mean places of heavy pollution and pick-pocketing, both are non-life-threatening. But my American friends helped me understand the severity and taught me what to do and what not to do, and what are the good times to pass by these areas and never linger alone. Even after I arrived, I was warned many times by my American friends not to hang out after hours on the street in bad areas in the U.S.

With the knowledge about the area, I am lucky that nothing has happened to me. I entered many of the bad neighborhoods by myself to cover stories, and I don’t speak Spanish, but I always go early in morning and leave before the day gets dark. I don’t make eye contact with suspicious people, focus on my way, and always walk in open paths that are visible to everyone.

So who is to blame for their death? Sorry to be cliché, but it’s the system. Poverty and gun violence are the killers. Many Chinese are shocked that America is not the one they see in movies, which is a place of glamorous skyscrapers in Manhattan, carefree lifestyles and beautiful suburban houses. Just like China, the U.S. has poverty, ghettos, crime and worse, gun violence. Life in the U.S. is not all about glamour and wealth.

It’s sad that it had to take two lives for people, Chinese and American, students and the university, to understand what we could have done better to avoid tragedies like that.

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About Shako Liu

Shako Liu is a multi-media journalist in Los Angeles. She gained her master's degree in journalism at University of Southern California.
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