Chinese Community Demands Resignation of United Airlines CEO

John Chan, the head of the Coalition of Asian Americans for Civil Rights, speaking at a gathering of community leaders condemning United Airlines for its forcible ejection of a passenger on April 9 (Photo by Jingwen Wang, via World Journal)

A dozen or so Chinese community activists and elected officials representing Chinese concentrated neighborhoods called for Oscar Munoz, the chief executive officer of United Airlines to resign, following an incident in which a passenger was violently forced to give up his seat to an employee of the company on an overbooked flight. And they asked the company to fully investigate the incident, apologize to the victim in person and make a detailed compensation plan.

They made the demand on April 12 at a meeting in Brooklyn organized by John Chan, the head of the Coalition of Asian Americans for Civil Rights. The victim in the broadly reported incident is a Chinese-Vietnamese doctor, David Dao.

Nancy Tong, a district leader of the 47th Assembly district, said that there aren’t many Chinese Americans in politics. So a stereotypical belief among many Americans is that Chinese are silent and weak. “You cannot forcefully pull even luggage, let alone a 69-year-old man. Violently pulling a man along the pathway is treating him like an animal,” said Tong. “United Airlines also needs to explain to the public how he was selected. What’s more, it’s also important for the Chinese to make our voices heard by participating in politics and voting.”

Steven Wong, president of the Hotel Chinese Association, said: “Why is it that Asians are victimized all the time? We are here to tell the world that Chinese are not silent nor are they dumb. We have sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and asked her to investigate whether racism played a role in this incident.”

Qinghua Liu, secretary of the association, said this is a typical case of consumer rights being abused by big corporations. She calls for the Chinese in China to fight together with the Chinese in the U.S. “United Airlines is the biggest American airline operating in China. It has 72 routes there. So if Chinese in both countries boycott the company together, it would be powerful,” said Liu. “Meanwhile, Chinese should keep writing to elected and government officials to put pressure on the company and hold it accountable.”

State Assemblyman William Colton said: “It is the airlines’ legal responsibility to guarantee the passenger’s safety and dignity on the way. Their violent behavior not only affected the safety of the passenger, but also put the life of the patient he was supposed to help the next day at risk. The apology from Munoz is not enough. He is the one who should be fired.”

Council member Mark Treyger said Munoz only made a further apology after the share price of the company suffered greatly. Even so, the apology doesn’t sound sincere enough. “Unfortunately, it is still legal for the airlines to overbook and force passengers to get off the plane. The federal government should amend the law,” said Treyger.

The Chinese representatives of State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and Council member Carlos Menchaca also attended the meeting and made it clear that the elected officials have zero tolerance for such incidents.

In a separate story published also on April 13, Yiyi Huang reported that many New York officials including Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Council member Margaret Chin and the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus either wrote to the management of the company or issued statements asking for a full investigation of the incident.

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