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Chinese pastry chef in coma after attack on New York City street

By HENG WEILI in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-04-26 09:57
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Yao Pan Ma, 61, lies in a coma in Harlem Hospital after he was stomped repeatedly on a street in East Harlem in Manhattan on Friday night. Photo provided to China Daily

He is a talented pastry chef who came to the US from China with his wife a couple of years ago to work in a New York restaurant. Now he is fighting for his life — the latest Asian person to be a victim of violence in the city.

Yao Pan Ma, 61, lies in a coma in Harlem Hospital after he was stomped repeatedly on a street in East Harlem in Manhattan on Friday night.

His wife, Baozhen Chen, told their two children, who live in China, that their father may not survive.

"I told our children last night," she told the New York Post on Sunday after visiting her husband, who suffered a cerebral contusion and facial fractures in the attack and is in a medically induced coma.

"They are very concerned about their father," Chen said in Cantonese through an interpreter. "I am very worried my husband will not make it."

Chen, 57, said her husband lost his job at a Chinese restaurant in Lower Manhattan in September, where he had assisted the chef and also worked as a dishwasher. The restaurant industry has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, so he began collecting cans for recycling to get by.

"My husband made fancy desserts in China," said Chen. "We came here (from South China's Guangdong province) for the job opportunity two years ago. He lost his job because of COVID-19. So he did whatever he could to help support and pay bills.

He was not eligible for federal assistance due to his immigration status, his wife told the New York Daily News.

"We weren't qualified for employment reimbursement, so only I'm working during the pandemic," Chen told the News. "He was just trying to help out the family. He had no bad intentions. He wouldn't cause trouble with other people in his neighborhood.

"We spend a lot of time together," she told the Post of her husband of 31 years. "Cooking together, baking, watching television together. He is very skilled."

Ma was out collecting bottles and cans and was walking with a shopping cart full of the items near Third Avenue and 125th Street when he was stomped from behind at least six times in the attack, which was captured on video.

"Once on the ground, the individual kicked the victim multiple times in the head before fleeing the location on foot to parts unknown," said an NYPD statement to

"My husband will call me daily to make sure I know he got home safely. But that night he didn't call me, so I was worried," Chen told the News. "I called him, and the police picked up. ... The police told me what happened — my husband was hit and sent to the hospital."

Police were called by a bus driver who saw Ma lying unconscious in the street.

The suspect in the attack is described as an adult male with a dark complexion. He was wearing a black jacket, black pants, white sneakers and a multi-colored cap.

It is the second brutal kicking attack on an Asian person within a month on a New York street. On March 29, a 65-year-old Filipino woman was kicked numerous times on a Midtown Manhattan street outside of an apartment building as two doormen watched and did not intervene.

The suspect, a convicted murderer, was later apprehended.

In Ma's case, the NYPD's Hate Crimes Unit is investigating but has not yet determined if he was targeted because of his race. Anyone with information can contact @NYPDHateCrimes on Twitter.

"This is outrageous. Make no mistake, we will find the perpetrator and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter.

Ma's wife is now concerned about her own safety.

"I am scared," said Chen, a home healthcare aide for the elderly. "I need to go back to work on Friday. I want the police to capture the person as soon as possible."

"We are completely in shock, terrified and scared and frustrated," Ma's niece told ABC-TV in New York. "My uncle is a very quiet person, very hardworking. He's not the person to cause trouble."

Several GoFundMe pages have been set up, but Chen said the family was not involved.

"No, we did not set up GoFundMe," she told the Post. "No one in our family set up an account like that."

As of 7:40 pm ET Sunday, one of the campaigns had raised $20,150.

The organizer, Pam Yang, wrote: "I'm Pam, a Chinese-American NYC native, who just finished co-leading an AAPI ride for justice when I saw this story. I'm heartbroken and pissed off and raising funds to support his medical bills, help his family make ends meet AND give them some financial relief while they deal with this horrific tragedy."

The GoFundMe page also states that Ma and his wife moved to Harlem after their apartment in downtown Manhattan's Chinatown burned down.

Another gofundme campaign organized by Howard Chan in Los Angeles had raised $1,920 as of Sunday.

"Let's make sure when he recovers from his coma (fingers crossed), that he knows he can stand on the shoulders of the Asian community and that we are rooting for him," the page states. "Our elders need our FULL and unwavering support during this difficult time. Let's show these cowards that they cannot and will not keep us down. Please DONATE!"

There have been at least 62 anti-Asian incidents reported to the NYPD between Jan 1 and April 18, according to NYPD data. In the same period last year, there were 12.

The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate also recorded 3,795 separate incidents, including verbal and physical altercations, between March 19, 2020, and Feb 28, 2021.

A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 81 percent of Asian Americans believe violence against them is increasing, compared to only 2 percent who believes it is on the decline.

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