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Hmong among us



Hmong National Development Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, is holding its annual conference in Detroit April 12-15. Michigan was chosen, in part, to host the conference because it's the state with the highest Hmong population behind California, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Carolina, says William Yang, volunteer coordinator at the national development group.

But that's not the only reason Michigan was chosen.

Hundreds of Hmong educators, leaders and advocates from around the country will attend the national conference, and workshops will include discussions about hate crimes against Hmong and other Asian people, says Maykao Lytongpao, a Detroit bilingual teacher who helped organize the national conference.

The local case of Chonburi Xiong, the 18-year-old killed last fall, will be part of the discussions, she says, but notes that "hate crimes are one of the hot topics right now among the Hmong community around the nation."

Xiong was in the basement bedroom of his parents' house on a Sunday morning last fall when four police officers fatally shot him, hitting him 27 times. (See "Shooting Pains," MT, Feb. 7). Family members had called police the day before reportedly because he had taken the family car without permission, but police had neither a search nor arrest warrant when they entered the home and killed him.

An internal review and Macomb County Prosecutor's Office investigation cleared the officers, but the Hmong community has sought more answers. Youth from the Detroit Asian Youth Project organized a memorial service for Xiong in February, and the group plans more workshops this summer, says Stephanie Chang, one of the DAY Project Founders.

"They've been working on a workshop, sort of a know-your-rights workshop on how to interact with police," she says. "They did the workshop this past weekend, and they're going to do it again at the Hmong national conference."

The local group also had brochures translated into Hmong about how to interact with police. "It should be pretty useful for people," Chang says. They will be distributed at the national conference.

Meanwhile, the Xiong family's federal $5 million civil rights lawsuit against the Warren Police Department is progressing, although any trial is still about a year away.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or

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