Where Do Funds Raised for Peter Liang Go?

 

Peter Liang (left) joined by his mother and Karlin Chan (center), founder of the Chinese Action Network. (Photo by Mengzi Gao via World Journal)

Peter Liang (left) joined by his mother and Karlin Chan (center), founder of the Chinese Action Network, at a Nov. 9 press conference. (Photo by Mengzi Gao via World Journal)

With the case of Peter Liang – the former police officer who accidentally killed an innocent African American man, Akai Gurley, while patrolling the Pink Houses in Brooklyn – ending with Liang’s decision to forego the right to appeal, the Chinese community is facing a new question: How do we deal with the funds that were raised for Liang’s appeal? The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) and the Lin Sing Association, two community organizations that each raised tens of thousands of dollars for Liang said on Dec. 7 that they will direct the funds to other Chinese in need. Siqi Zheng, president of the Fuzhou Ting Jiang High School Alumni United Association of America, said the organization has returned the $130,000 it raised among the alumni to the donors. Karlin Chan, a community activist who helped raise money for Liang’s trial, said the funds were raised for Liang’s sake, so the money should be transferred to a fund established in Liang’s name.

Jerry Shiao, president of the CCBA, said the trust fund the organization set for Liang’s appeal has raised more than $80,000 after its inception in February. The money will be kept by the CCBA now and used for Chinese who need help in the future. The decision on fund allocations will be made at the monthly meeting of the members of the standing committee of the organization.

“Two-thirds of the money came from member organizations of the CCBA. So we have the right to make collective decisions on how to use it,” said Shiao. Indeed the fund at the CCBA stopped accepting donations in March after Liang hired lawyers for the possible appeal and received legal fees from the Lin Sing Association. Now that Liang has decided not to appeal, the CCBA will maintain and use the money prudently.

Xue Yuan Deng, president of the Lin Sing Association, said the organization has handed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Liang in several transitions. It still has tens of thousands of dollars on hand. It plans to establish a fund to help other Chinese after getting consent from Liang. Eddie Chiu, director of the organization, has also discussed with Liang’s lawyers about the possibility of setting up a fund to help Chinese who are mistreated, and to invite retired high-ranking officials of the New York Police Department to be the trustees.

Zheng, the president of the ATJSSAA, said the organization raised $130,000 for Liang from its alumni. But the money has been returned to the donors. “We held several meetings to discuss how to deal with the money after we learned Liang had gotten enough for the legal fees of the possible appeal,” said Zheng. “Eventually we decided to return it to the donors so that in the future, when we raise money for other causes, we can still get their trust and support.”

The Chinese community was enraged by Liang’s indictment and it held several rallies and marches to show their anger against the unfairness in the judiciary system. Many Chinese people donated spontaneously to help Liang pay for his legal fees. The Coalition of Asian Americans for Civil Rights (CAACR), which was the organizer behind some of these protests, also raised money for Liang.

John Chan, general director of the CAACR, said the organization raised $300,000 in Brooklyn and has handed all the money to Liang’s family. Now that the case is over, he respects the decisions of Liang’s family on how to deal with the money. But he said the Liang family should make their decisions clear and transparent to the community. “The community has helped the family a lot. If there are still community donations left in their hand, the family should let the community know how they want to deal with it,” said Chan.

Karlin Chan, who raised the $25,000 that had been used to cover the legal fees during Liang’s trial, said all the money the community raised were for Liang’s sake, so the money should be transferred to Liang’s own fund rather than be held by different organizations. “Many people donated because of Liang. I know an old Chinese lady who makes a living by scavenging and donated several dozen dollars. To not let them down, we have to use the money as it is designated,” said Chan. He also insisted that failing to hand the money to Liang is not only a problem within the community, but also could possibly be considered as public fraud which may incur an investigation from law enforcement.

In addition, Liang paid Paul Shechtman, the attorney he hired for his appeal, $200,000 in March. Now that the appeal is not going to be filed, Schechtman may have to return some of the fees. Neither Liang nor Shechtman returned phone calls by press time.

Liang has finished the community service sentenced by the judge and is now looking for a job. Robert Brown, Liang’s trial attorney, said on Dec. 7: “Liang has apologized to Gurley’s family many times. Now that the civil and criminal cases are both over, he can finally walk out of the sad past and move on to the future.”

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