Zishi Zhang, an 18-year-old student in the U.K., launched the #ChineseLivesMatter petition on April 11 calling for a federal investigation into the United Airlines incident that sent Dr. David Dao to the hospital for multiple facial injuries and a concussion.
The 69-year-old Vietnamese-American man has since been released from treatment after suffering a severe concussion, knocked out teeth, a broken nose and other sinus injuries during a “deplaning” incident that turned violent on a United operated flight in Chicago.
Zhang started the petition because he felt that the way United treated Dao was completely wrong.
Nearly 207,000 people have signed it, surpassing the 100,000 goal, meaning the White House is required to issue an official response to the petition within 60 days.
“I didn’t expect to receive such tremendous support at first and I felt quite urgent, infuriated and passionate to start the petition thus I didn’t word it in a very sophisticated manner,” Zhang told NextShark.
The reason he decided to use the “Chinese Lives Matter” hashtag is because initial reports from major news outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post said the grandfather was quoted by another passenger as saying, “I’m being selected because I’m Chinese”.
Many netizens pointed out that Dao was Vietnamese and suggested to Zhang that he should change the tag to #AsianLivesMatter instead.
But, according to the White House petitions page, a petition cannot be edited once it is published, so there was no way the teen could correct its title and content.
“I think the point still stands, so many Chinese people signed it which means that they must share the feeling which is probably a result of experiencing stereotype or racism,” said Zhang, whose friends and fellow classmates also signed the petition and voiced their support.
His ultimate goal for the petition is to urge the government to launch a federal investigation into United Airlines’ actions and ensure that justice is served.
Zhang told NextShark:
“I want the company to apologize formally and genuinely, instead of using words such as the passenger was ‘disruptive and belligerent’. Most importantly, I think that if you want others to take you seriously, you have to get involved into politics and/or express your opinions on media. That’s why I have been campaigning for youth participation because I feel the youth is under-represented just as the Chinese community. I want to encourage my fellow Chinese people to get involved, to make sure that we are taken seriously by making a positive impact: volunteering, blogging, campaigning etc. also to show that Chinese people also know how to protect our rights by laws and democratic means such as petitions, getting involved in politics, etc.”
Once the White House responds to his petition, Zhang hopes to meet like-minded youth to fight stereotypes about Chinese people and culture.
“I wish to make this into a new, positive social movement which benefits everyone and encourage greater social integration,” Zhang said.