Freedom of Speech: American Style
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Asian-Americans Concerned About Spy Plane Backlash
A bouquet for a sensitive article. A candle of vigil to guard against racist cartoons.
Thursday April 12 8:03 PM ET Asian-Americans Concerned About Spy Plane Backlash
By Sonya Hepinstall
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Asian-American groups voiced concern on Thursday about negative references to Chinese-Americans in the U.S. media in a potential backlash over the surveillance plane incident.
China on Thursday returned 24 U.S. crew members from an intelligence-gathering plane that landed on Hainan Island after colliding with a Chinese fighter, defusing a building crisis in Sino-American relations.
But civil rights groups remained watchful. The Organization of Chinese-Americans said on Wednesday in a statement: ''Unfortunately, for Chinese-Americans the problem does not end with the release of the crewmen.
``Despite the fact that we are U.S. citizens and permanent residents, we continue to be beset with false characterizations, and when circumstances like this incident arise, our loyalty and patriotism are questioned.''
The group said its members had been offended by several alleged popular reactions, including discussions of whether Chinese-Americans should be interned, as Japanese-Americans were during the Second World War, and calls for boycotts of Chinese restaurants.
It said it was investigating. Victor Hsi, vice president for public affairs, said his group hoped to keep any backlash against Chinese-Americans over the plane incident from getting out of hand.
``Historically, what happens every time something flares up between the U.S. and China, it does have repercussions on Chinese-Americans here,'' he told Reuters.
``It gives people who are prone to make these statements license to make these statements,'' he said, adding that the comments tend to be directed at both ``Chinese and Chinese-Americans, because people mix them together.''
The Asian-American Journalists Association, meanwhile, demanded an apology from syndicated cartoonist Patrick Oliphant over a comment on the U.S.-China dispute that the group called ''unacceptable.''
Oliphant's cartoon showed the Chinese side as a bucktoothed restaurant worker and the American side as his hapless customer, Uncle Sam. The worker spills a plate of ``crispy fried cat gizzards with noodles'' on Uncle Sam and, although it is his mistake, demands that the patron apologize.
``We're objecting to the use of the racial stereotypes and caricature in the cartoon,'' said April Elkjer, communication director at the association, which groups more than 1,700 journalists in the United States and Asia.
``An apology would indicate that this person understands that we need people to practice the craft of journalism in a responsible manner,'' she said.
Asked by Reuters for a comment, the Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes Oliphant's work, said:
``Editorial cartooning at its best is an art form that both evokes and provokes response. Oliphant is a master at this, and his cartoons frequently offend people of all groups.''