|Your account||Today's news index||Weather||Traffic||Movies||Restaurants||Today's events|
Friday, July 30, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Chinese in uproar over attack at U.S.-Canada border
By John M. Glionna
The victim is a Chinese tourist who recently was attacked during an outing to Niagara Falls, on the U.S.-Canadian border. But the suspect isn't any violent criminal or quick-hit mugger. The man who allegedly punched Zhao Yan repeatedly and doused her with pepper spray was an inspector with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Officer Robert Rhodes is accused of throwing the 37-year-old gym-equipment saleswoman against a wall, kneeing her in the head and striking her head on the ground. Rhodes, 43, was charged with violating her civil rights and faces 10 years in prison if convicted. He said he thought Zhao was with a man from whom officers had just confiscated marijuana.
The attack has touched a nerve. In what the state-run media have called an unusual move, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing this week called on U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to launch a "serious and thorough investigation" into the July 21 incident.
For many Chinese, the attack confirmed their worst nightmares of foreign travel and raised concerns about the safety of Chinese nationals living abroad, especially in the United States.
"I have been to many countries in the past for business purposes, and the United States is the most barbarous," Zhao told the state-run China Daily, which is distributed nationwide. The newspaper reported Zhao has hired a U.S. lawyer and plans to sue, seeking $5 million in damages.
College student Liu Peili said Zhao's experience illustrated the gap between the virtues preached by the United States and the reality of life within its own borders.
"America always points its finger at other countries, including China, about their so-called human-rights violations," the 22-year-old Tianjin native said. "So why then should an incident as ugly as this occur right there in the U.S.? America always seems to do exactly opposite of what it tells other countries to do."
For many here, the incident harks back to the 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Although U.S. officials apologized for what they called an error, many Chinese thought the attack was intentional.
Zhao was chased and grabbed late at night on July 21 near Niagara's famed Rainbow Bridge by Rhodes, who said he thought she was part of a drug deal involving pounds of marijuana, The Christian Science Monitor reported.
After creating some suspicions by her movements, Zhao ran away just as authorities were doing a drug search. Rhodes grabbed Zhao, pepper-sprayed her, and roughed her up and badly bruised her face when she swung her arms at him in a struggle, according to U.S. officials.
A business group called the Preparatory Committee of the Commission for the Promotion of U.S.-China Free Trade has criticized U.S. officials for the attack. Although it understands America's need to beef up security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the group said U.S. immigration officers have no right to assault foreigners without bothering to find out the basic facts.
Shopping at a Tianjin supermarket Wednesday, Zhang Weihao said women were not humiliated this way in China. "Women are supposed to be respected everywhere in the world," he said. "But apparently not in America."
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company
Back to top