Celebrating Lunar New Year in the Wake of Gun Violence in the Asian Community Part 2


Linda Wang

A drawing of a rabbit with traditional Wǔ shī(舞狮) costume and Dēnglóng(灯笼). Wǔ shī(舞狮) is costume worn for Shīziwǔ(狮子舞), or the Lion Dance. Illustration made by Linda Wang.

Lisa Wang, News Editor

Starting the New Year with Tragedy

Tens of thousands of people attended celebrations in the city on Garvey Ave.  Once again the City of Monterey Park, World Journal LA, and BIDAC partnered up to host the 2023 Lunar New Year Festival. People gathered at downtown Monterey Park to enjoy the two-day events beginning on Jan. 21 filled with cultural experiences, interactive activities, carnival games, and food. 

The last thing the people of Monterey Park, California expected on the Lunar New Year’s Eve was death. Just an hour after the first day of festivities finished, at 10:22 p.m. PST, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran entered the Star Ballroom Dance Studio on 122 West Garvey and fired 42 rounds of bullets at the innocent Asians in the dance studio, leaving 11 dead and nine fatally injured in his rampage. He then quickly moved on to a nearby dance hall, Lai Lai Ballroom, where employee Brandon Tsy quickly disarmed him.

Wang was in disbelief when she heard about the shooting.

“I honestly don’t know what the old man wanted to achieve. Being Asian and the people that he killed were Asian, I don’t quite understand why he exactly did what he did,” Wang stated. 

The news also brought forth a lot of mixed emotions for some. 

“ 我觉得是一个mixed feelings,因为在California 发生的。我somehow 觉得surprised, somehow 觉得没有那么surprised, 因为California, 大概这一两年, 发生了很多起。 不管是California, 【还是】整个nation,就发生了很多关于Asian [hate] 的事情。[I had mixed feelings because it happened in California. I somehow felt surprised, and somehow felt like I wasn’t surprised because California –for the past two or so years– had a lot of cases like this. It wasn’t just California, but the entire nation had a lot of violence towards Asians],” Chen said.

When Zhang found out the morning after, the news impacted her harder than she expected.

“I thought that I wouldn’t be too affected by it, because in America, tragedies happen every day, and as much as I hate it, you get desensitized–everyone gets desensitized. So in this case, I expected to be more desensitized than I was,” Zhang explained.

“I was surprised by how much it impacted me, but I think in hindsight, it makes a lot of sense. I do associate Chinese New Year with festivities and reunions. To have a hate crime that is such a tragedy happen in such close proximity [to the holiday], especially associated with my culture, I think that’s why it impacted me so much.  At first, I thought, I would almost never get over it, I wouldn’t be thinking about it as much as I did think about it,” Zhang added. 

The motives behind the shooting are still unclear, however, officials were able to come up with a few ideas. A possible reason, a friend of Tran shared with the press was that Tran might have been targeting the dance studio because of the way he felt like he was being treated when he frequently visited. A second possible motive was Tran was looking for his ex-wife, whom he might have thought was at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio. 

Tran will never be held accountable for the lives he took or the people he hurt. He will never face persecution or be punished for his actions. Just 12 hours after the shooting, as a SWAT team surrounded Tran’s white van, he was found dead in his vehicle with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

The 2023 Lunar New Year Festival was canceled after the shooting, as officials began investigating the mass shooting. 

Many Asians now fear how the narrative will be turned from a horrific tragedy to a way to erase Asian Hate from the story.

“I think of [the] dangerous narrative that could [come] from this. Like ‘oh! Because this shooter was Asian, hate crimes in America don’t exist’. It still has a profound impact on Asian Americans because it is our culture, and it is our race,” Zhang stated. “To have a tragedy like that happen on a holiday that is so integral to our culture, it changes how you view America as a country.  There are people who will say ‘even when mass shootings happen, it’s an Asian person who perpetrated it’. That isn’t a way that people can say ‘look Asian hate isn’t a problem, because when we had this mass shooting, the shooter was an Asian person’. But there are going to be voices that will say that, and that’s what bothers me the most.”

Chen voiced the same concern.

“我也很担心会有人说就觉得,‘这就是asian 的shooter, shoot Asians, 只是你们【自己】个人的恩怨’。[I also worry that there will be people who will say ‘ it was an Asian shooter, shooting Asians, this was your own resentment]. [But sometimes], it’s not about racial [appearance],” Chen stated. 

Another Round of Bullets Fired 

As the Monterey Park citizens were still mourning the lives lost on Jan. 21st, six more lives were lost in Half Moon Bay, California. On Jan. 23, Chunli Zhao, age 66, went on a shooting spree at two mushroom farms. Allegedly, his shooting came from a fit of anger. Just a few minutes before the shooting, Zhao complained to his supervisor about a $100 repair bill that he had to pay for forklift damage that occurred prior to the incident. When Zhao’s complaints were denied, he shot the supervisor and the co-worker he believed caused the damage to the forklift. 

Zhao killed four workers and left one wounded at California Terra Garden. He then traveled to Concord Farms and fatally shot three former co-workers—some of the killings allegedly taking place in front of children that lived nearby. 

On Thurs. Jan. 26, Zhao admitted to the shootings, his reasoning being that he was bullied, mistreated, and worked long hours on the farms while his complaints were ignored. He is still awaiting his sentence, which could either be life without parole or the death penalty. 

Zhang had multiple concerns when she heard about the Half Moon Bay shootings, the most prevalent being how the narrative would be rewritten to reflect the Asian community in a bad light, or in no way at all. 

“When a crime like this happens that is targeted that affects one minority group and the perpetrator is a part of that minority group, it gets downplayed. Something else that was brought to my attention was just a lot of older people that were doing manual labor. Maybe it becomes a problem that news to be addressed that there are 60-year-old Asian Americans manually working at a mushroom farm. But of course, that’s not going to be addressed,” Zhang explained.  “If mainstream media does address it, it will only be about the shooting itself, or it becomes a politicized discussion on gun law–which needs to happen, but we can’t turn every mass casualty into a statistic when we’re talking about gun laws when it impacts minority groups like this.”


Both shootings left innocent people dead or lives completely altered. The Monterey Park victims include six women and five men, all between the ages of 50 to 70. 

  • My Nhan, age 65
  • Ming Wei Ma, age 72
  • Diana Tom, age 70
  • Xiujuan Yu, age 57
  • Lilian Li, age 63
  • Valentino Alvero, age 68
  • Muoi Ung, age 67
  • Hong Jain, age 62
  • YuKao, age 72
  • Chia Yau, age 76
  • Wen Yu, age 64

To learn more about the lives lost, click here for a more in-depth bio for each victim. Multiple GoFundMe fundraisers have been set up to support the victims and the victim’s families of the Monterey Park shooting, which can be found here

The Half Moon Bay victims include workers between the ages of 40 to 75. 

  • Zhishen Liu, age 73
  • Marciano Martinez Jimenez, age 50
  • Aixiang Zhang, age 74
  • Qizhoong Cheng, age 66
  • Jung Hi Lu, age 64
  • Yetao Bing, age 43
  • Jose Romero Perez survived the ordeal. 

The survivors are more concerned about the cost of healthcare and losing their jobs than recovering from the shooting. A GoodFundMe has been set up to support the victims of Half Moon Bay, which can be found here

Gun Violence: Will it Ever Stop?

Every day, an average of 316 people in the US are shot. Each year, 115,551 people are shot and about 38,826 people die from gun violence each year. Of the 115,551 people, 7957 are children and teens. Of the children and teens that are shot, 1,663 of them die. 

Mass shootings have been on the rise. In 2022 alone, there were 647 mass shootings. The number of mass shootings per year has been over 600 for the past three years, meaning there have been at least 2 shootings per day. Compared to other countries, the US has the highest percentage of gun-related killings, about 79% of killings are from guns. 

So far, there have been 66 mass shootings in 2023. The reasons behind the extreme number of mass shootings and gun deaths are easy accessibility to guns and lack of gun laws. There are 120.5 firearms per 100 residents in the US, far more than anywhere else in the world. Within the population of guns owned, a hefty portion is assault weapons or semi-automatic guns. 

Assault weapons have the ability to cause a lot of damage in very little time. The gun used at the Monterey Park shooting was a submachine gun, with semi-automatic abilities, and although not classified as an assault weapon, Tran was still able to kill 11 without much work. Only eight states have banned assault weapons — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Washington DC.

Despite the number of gun deaths in the US, very few gun laws have been updated or added to prevent future shootings. The few that actually exist include the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prevent individuals under 18 years old, convicted criminals, mentally disabled, and dishonorably discharged military personnel from purchasing firearms, and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention act, which forced background checks for all unlicensed people purchasing a firearm from a federally authorized dealer. The most recent Bipartisan Safer Communities bill reduces the amount of violence throughout the US and helps schools keep students safe. Still, many are unhappy with the lack of action taken by the US government. 

“Considering that we’re living in State College, and it is a very safe place to be and knowing that there are some places [where] there are mass shootings every single [one] is very shocking,” Wang exclaimed. “It makes me sad to think about how many people have lost their lives because of [the lack of] gun control laws in the US. But having them as a form of self-defense is still pretty important. We just have to have more [control] over what type of guns are owned. Like guns that only shoot one bullet at a time, and not do so much damage.”

Change is not easy to make, but there have been proven ways to prevent gun violence, like more extensive background checks or mental health programs to destigmatize mental health and care.

“In an ideal world, there are two problems [to be addressed], [the] first [being] limiting access to guns. I don’t know if completely outlawing guns would work, but increasing security measures and decreasing how easy it is to access a gun [will help],” Zhang expressed. “Another part of it is providing more mental health resources and destigmatizing mental health. A lot of mass shooters have some sort of mental health condition, and in a perfect world, we would have solutions to those conditions. We would have systemic mental health facilities instead of stigma and costs. But that’s why it’s so ideal; it’s unrealistic.”

In recent years, congress has been debating gun laws, however, every time a new one is formed, they never live long enough to get passed into the legislature. Some of those laws would get assault weapons banned, have stricter background checks, etc. 

“This is the problem with the party system. Anytime any other side makes a drastic change that their supporters would view as progress, firstly, there would be so much divisiveness. As good as gun laws, and things like even reproductive rights would be, the amount of increased divisiveness it would create within the country, it would just lead to America to, well, impending doom,” Zhang stated. 

Student voices may seem quiet in the grand scheme of things, but there are simple civilian actions to stop shootings before they happen as the US awaits more gun control. Many petitions have been set up to help signal to representatives and Senators what the people want, which can be found here