K. Madhusudhana Sastry, father of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer who was shot and killed in the United States last week, performs last rites of his son during his funeral at a crematorium in Hyderabad, India, February 28, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Stringer

The shooting of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in a Kansas bar by a United States Navy veteran has echoes of the violence directed at Asians for at least the past 134 years, according to a Chinese-American civic organization.

Committee of 100 chairman Frank Wu has compared the attack on February 22 to the June 1982 murder of Vincent Chin and said both hate crimes were linked to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a law that prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers to the US.

Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese-American, was beaten to death by two automotive factory workers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz. The killers blamed Japan for the downturn in the US automotive industry and took out their grievances on Chin, who they mistook for a Japanese.

“From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the Japanese-American internment to Vincent Chin, there is a clear line to the recent Kansas case,” Wu said. “The Vincent Chin case was mistaken identity twice over: someone Chinese mistaken for Japanese, someone mistaken for foreign, who was killed as a result.”

Wu leads the Committee of 100, a group of prominent Chinese-Americans who offer leadership to other Chinese-Americans, and is a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law. The attack on Chin had its direct parallel to the Kansas case, he said.

“All these cases resonate. They’re compelling,” he said. “They hit Asian-Americans, whether they’re newly arrived or third generation, right in the gut because when you see these cases, you say this could be my uncle, this could be my cousin or me in the wrong place at the wrong time. It doesn’t matter if I am patriotic, if I am loyal. Nothing matters except that in the eyes of some people I am not a real American.”

‘Get out of my country’

Adam Purinton, a US Navy veteran, has been charged with the first-degree murder of Kuchibhotla and attempted first-degree murder of Alok Madasani. Purinton is alleged to have shot and killed Kuchibhotla at Austins Bar and Grill in the Kansas City satellite town of Olathe. He is also said to have shot Madasani in the leg. A third man, Ian Grillot, was also shot when he attempted to tackle the gunman.

The two Indian-born engineers were catching up at the bar before encountering Purinton. It has been widely reported that Purinton shouted “get out of my country” before opening fire. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is treating the attack as a hate crime.

Media coverage has connected the shooting with Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, speaking at a White House press briefing on February 27, described reports of the attack as “disturbing.” Trump did not comment on the shootings until he addressed the US Congress on February 28, saying Americans were “united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

Chin case

Chin’s killing outraged Asian Americans, especially after the courts meted out what they viewed as lenient sentences to the two killers. Ebens and Nitz were charged with second-degree murder but a county court convicted them of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The pair were sentenced to three years’ probation. The killers were subsequently tried for violating Chin’s civil rights. Ebens was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison, a conviction that was overturned on appeal.

Meanwhile, the Committee of 100 has urged the Trump administration to follow an immigration policy that is “consistent with American values.” “Chinese-Americans in particular have had the experience of exclusion and expulsion,” the committee said. “We give pause when restrictive policies are not only proposed but implemented.”

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