opinion

Christina Yuna Lee and Michelle Go were killed within weeks of each other. It hits so close to home.

In the early hours of February 13, senior creative producer Christina Yuna Lee took an Uber to her New York apartment in Chinatown. The 35-year-old unlocked the building’s main entrance and walked inside. As the door swung back to close behind her, a man slipped in undetected. Lee continued on her way up to her sixth-floor apartment.

The man followed.

Later, Lee’s landlord Brian Chin would tell Fox News, “He knew exactly what he was doing. He fell back. He masked his sound. This monster, he hid himself down below every floor as he watched her go up.”

When Lee opened the door to her unit, the man attacked. Her neighbours heard her screaming for help and called the police, but when they arrived, Lee’s door was locked and the man, imitating a woman’s voice, told them they weren’t needed. Emergency Services broke down the door.

Lee was discovered dead in her bathtub with over 40 stab wounds. The man was found cowering under her bed. He was arrested and has since been charged with murder.

Christina Yuna Lee's murderer walks behind her. (Image: Supplied)

Although it didn't ultimately save her, perhaps Lee got an Uber that night because of what happened to another Asian woman in New York while she waited for the subway just weeks earlier...

At 9.30am on January 15, senior consulting manager Michelle Alyssa Go was waiting to catch a train at the Times Square subway station. The 40-year-old did not notice the man standing behind her, watching. As the train pulled in, the man shoved Go onto the tracks. It happened in mere seconds. Go was pronounced dead at the scene. The man fled, before surrendering to police a few hours after. He has now been charged with second-degree murder. 

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Later, witness Maria Coste-Weber, who was waiting for a train to take her to a boxing class, would tell The New York Times, “[Go] had her back to this crazy person. She never saw anything. [The man] started running with both of his hands in front of him, like, tackling. But it was so fast, nobody realized what was going on before it was too late."

With just a month separating these murders, the outpouring of grief from the residents of Chinatown, from New Yorkers, and from the Asian community as a whole has been immense. Asian women have been particularly vocal in their distress and anger. It is palpable, raw, and real. 

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Back in 2020, when it was first discovered that the origin of COVID-19 was in Wuhan, China, it led to a significant increase in hate crimes against Asians.

In America, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism reported that anti-Asian hate crimes increased 339 per cent last year, compared to 124 per cent in 2020. Between March 2020 and September 2021, non-profit organisation Stop AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) Hate recorded more than 10,000 hate incidents.

Ironically, Lee herself was involved with the resulting Stop Asian Hate movement, which has once again flared into prominence with protestors, activists, and mourners filling the streets to decry the violence against Asian women.

Besides the anger that the Asian community is feeling, there's terror too. The brutality committed against Lee and Go typifies the very worst manifestation of the hate that has been bubbling away during the pandemic. And it's left Asian women frightened for their lives.

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As an Asian woman, I stand in solidarity with all these women, and with the community. I'm angry. Oh boy, am I angry.

Here in Australia, according to research carried out by the University of Melbourne and University of Queensland, Asian-hate is very much on a par with levels seen in America.

And so I've felt fear too. 

Mostly, it was for my parents and elderly relatives rather than for myself. I was actually glad when we were in lockdown because it meant the chances of anything hate-related happening to them were slim. Imagine that - being happy to be locked down so that people can't blame you with their words and their fists.

But I'm also fearful about the stereotyping of Asian females and how it might make us easier targets for criminals. We are seen as smaller, cuter, quieter, more subservient - housewives stuck in the kitchen making perfectly shaped dim sims. Or we are hypersexualised - viewed as exotic and forbidden, as mail-order brides. 

It makes me wonder, am I more vulnerable now? A small, docile, timid target on which to take out some Asian-hate? Will I be hypersexualised, viewed - and treated - as more of an object than a human being?

Are the murders of Lee and Go definitely race-related? I don't know. No-one does for sure. The answer lies with the two homeless men who allegedly committed these horrific crimes.

But does it make any difference when a visceral fear is now instilled in every Asian woman who just wants to walk home, or use public transport, or get into their building early in the morning? To live their lives, whether they're in New York or Sydney or any other town or city in the world? You know the answer to these questions. Fear is founded on hate, and that hate is proven to be living amongst us.

It isn't just my deep understanding of that fear and my Asian heritage that I have in common with Christina Yuna Lee and Michelle Alyssa Go either - I have other undeniable similarities with these women. We're close in age, unmarried, working in senior jobs, and without children. Culturally, Asian parents are notorious for wanting grandkids from their kids. I wonder, did they want kids one day or were they happy being child-free? Did they have the same conversations with their parents as me? Did they have the same conversations with themselves as me? I wish I could ask them.

The murders of Christina Yuna Lee and Michelle Alyssa Go may have happened in New York - 10,000 miles away from where I live - but they hit very close to home indeed. 

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