Asian American rights activist dies

LOS ANGELES, Los Angeles Times

Lily Chin, whose grief and outrage over the brutal 1982 killing of her son helped galvanize Asian Americans to fight for civil rights, died of cancer Sunday at a hospital in Farmington Hills, Michigan. She was 82.

Chin was a Chinese immigrant whose only child, Vincent, was beaten unconsciousness outside a Detroit restaurant by two white, unemployed autoworkers who thought he was Japanese and responsible for U.S. auto industry layoffs. He died of his injuries four days after the assault, on June 23, 1982.

His assailants confessed to the crime but were never sent to jail, despite three trials.

Lily Chin, who had immigrated from a small village in southern China in 1948, spoke English poorly but criss-crossed the United States to raise awareness about the injustice of her son’s case.

He became a martyr and she the crusader and emotional center for a budding movement.

“She often said, ‘There is nothing I can do bring back Vincent but I don’t want any other mother to go through what I went through.’ She wanted justice for her son. She believed in justice,” said Stewart Kwoh, who started the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles a year after the attack on Vincent Chin.

“She was the inspiration for many of us to get involved, not only to track and address hate crimes but also to build strong civil rights organizations.”

She will be buried Saturday in Detroit next to her husband and son.