China says five victims in California shootings were citizens

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WASHINGTON – Five people killed in shootings at two farms in Northern California this week were Chinese citizens, according to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

A spokesman for the consulate said in a WeChat statement that China “strongly condemns this gun violence incident” and is in contact with the relevant US department to follow up on the probe into the shooting.

Seven people died and another was wounded in the shootings at two farms in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, on Monday. A 66-year-old suspect is in custody. It was not immediately known if any of the victims cited by China also had US citizenship, though Beijing does not recognise dual citizenship.

That crime occurred about two days after a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, that occurred after a Lunar New Year celebration.  

The violence plays into Chinese state media narratives that have long highlighted mass shootings and anti-Asian sentiments in the United States to paint American society as chaotic and unsafe. Both the Monterey and Half Moon Bay killings are not being investigated as hate crimes.

“Based on information obtained so far, this appears to be an act of workplace violence,” San Mateo County authorities said in a statement on Tuesday. The suspect, Chunli Zhao, was a farm worker and he admitted to the killings in a jailhouse interview with an NBC Bay Area reporter broadcast Thursday.

He said in the interview that he had been bullied while working long hours and thought he was mentally ill.

On Saturday night, a 72-year-old gunman, Huu Can Tran, killed 11 people at a ballroom dance club near Los Angeles. He killed himself in his van as police closed in. 

A state media report on the San Francisco consulate statement attracted more than 2 million views on the Weibo social media platform in the first three hours. 

Municipal leaders and Asian-American communities across the country mobilised to protect Lunar New Year celebrations after the mass shootings in California.

At a Lunar New Year ceremony at the White House on Thursday night, US President Joe Biden mentioned the California shootings and paid tribute to the victims. 

“Our prayers are with the people of Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay after yet another spree of gun violence in America,” Mr Biden said. “As a nation, we have to be there with you.”

Mr Biden also spoke about his conversation with Mr Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the Monterey Park gunman as he tried to enter a second dance studio.

“Brandon said he thought he was going to die, but then he thought about the people inside,” Mr Biden said. “I think sometimes we underestimate incredible acts of courage.”

The president added he had spoken to Representative Judy Chu, a California Democrat, who urged him to carry on with the New Year event at the White House. BLOOMBERG

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