World / Reporter's Journal

Students' wild, unchecked behavior can lead to tragedy

By Chang Jun (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-04-07 06:32

A certain population in the US — young international students from China — has been expanding at a phenomenal pace in recent years. Often vulnerable, immature and still in the process of learning how to take care of themselves, these adolescents frequently require continual attention and help in many matters — especially when it comes to staying physically safe and emotionally adjusted.

It's a daily ritual for Emily Gong, a 17-year-old Chinese girl attending a boarding school in Pennsylvania, to call her parents at 5 pm her time. Otherwise, "my mom will worry about my safety and whereabouts and won't be able to function", said Gong, who came to the US two years ago from Beijing in search of a more well-rounded education in the American school system.

Gong and her parents are not alone. According to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement program, among the 1.13 million foreign students enrolled in roughly 9,000 US schools at the end of February, about one-third of them, or 331,371, were from China.

The Institute of International Education indicated in its 2014 report that Chinese students have accounted for a growing percentage of international students across US universities and colleges. After seven years of double-digit percentage increases, China has remained the top source of foreign students in the US for the fifth consecutive year.

As the world's second-largest economy, China in the last two decades has produced many affluent middle-class families who can afford to send their children to study abroad. Many of the children — most of whom are an only child, thanks to China’s "One Child Policy" in place since 1976 — can get into trouble being so far from home and out from under the watchful eyes their parents. Students' wild, unchecked behavior can lead to tragedy

Sometimes they even make national headlines — fatal crashes in speeding luxury cars; group plagiarism in tests and examinations; all around flaunting social responsibility and violating local laws.

In March 2013, many Americans were shocked when a Chinese woman paid her 19-year-old son's $2 million bail with a cashier's check. The son, a student at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia, Washington, was facing homicide charges after killing a woman in November 2012 driving his brand new Mercedes-Benz at 70 mph in a residential neighborhood and running a stop sign.

The son, later identified as Xu Yichun, told police he was driving "slightly fast" and made a sudden U-turn only because his GPS told him to. Not only did Xu not have a valid driving license, he had never driven before.

Some of the most immature young students demonstrating their sheer lack of common sense, decency and self-discipline end up ruining their future and worse.

Rowland Heights police in Los Angeles last March arrested two Chinese students, both 18 years old, on charges of illegally adducting, detaining and torturing two female students.

The two victims were seriously injured, both physically and psychologically, according to police. The court set a record-high bail of $3 million for each and four accomplices are still at large.

The suspects — female Yao Zhaiyun and her boyfriend Lei Zhangxin — allegedly abducted the two victims whom Yao believed had cheated on her friend; Yao and Lei held the girls in their house, beat and slapped them and cut their hair.

"The cruelty reflected in their deeds is astonishing," said Yi Bing, a media critic in the Bay Area. "I can't help but wonder what kind of juvenile education they received from their family and early schools."

As for the parents of Emily Gong, they would do well to remind their daughter to be always aware of her situation, know her friends well and memorize the numbers she can call should she face imminent danger.

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