Jennifer Pan (2010)

Jennifer and brother Felix follow a Buddhist monk during the funeral of their mother (2010)

On the Chinese language search engine ‘Baidu’ there are a handful of articles discussing the case of Canadian-born Chinese woman Jennifer Pan (born in 1986) – who was sentenced to life imprisonment in late 2014, for her part in hiring hit-men to murder her parents in late 2010. Also imprisoned for their part in the crime were Jennifer’s on-off boyfriend Daniel Wong, and the three hired assassins. Initially, Jennifer presented the murder of her mother and the attempted murder of her father, as an armed robbery gone wrong – painting herself as a ‘lucky’ victim, but as intelligent as the western media painted this young woman to be, the plans she made for the murders, and all the people involved in it, were stored in the records of the group’s text messages to one another. The articles in the Chinese language about this case are not from Mainland China, but appear to be straight translations of the typical English narratives prevalent in the West, and arise from the Chinese diaspora. What is interesting is the complete lack of ‘Chinese’ criticism of the Eurocentric reporting of this tragic case. Much, if not all of this Western narrative arises from the book written by Canadian journalist Jeremy Grimaldi who attended the trial, but such is the lack of genuine (and ‘ethnic’) Chinese input into the analysis of this case, that Jennifer’s Chinese family name of ‘Pan’ (潘) never appears in any English language text, as of course, it has to within Chinese language texts. In fact, ‘Pan’ (潘) is an ancient Chinese clan name that carries much historical import within Chinese culture. However, even where diasporic Chinese people do attempt an article (in English) about Jennifer Pan, they tend to stay within the confines of the Eurocentric narrative and offer nothing particularly insightful except for platitudes and stereotypical anecdotes.

The Eurocentric view of Chinese people living in the West is a priori racist, and this establishes the priority of Western culture over that of Chinese culture, and the European ethnicity over that of the Chinese ethnicity. Chinese people living in the West face the paradox of having their ethnicity disparaged whilst being institutionally ‘forced’ to conform to European standards of behaviour. The ‘rupture’ around which this process takes place is that of ‘White’ society subsuming all other cultures into itself (in a domineering fashion) whilst simultaneously ‘excluding’ all other ethnicities from being ‘equal’ members of that ‘White’ society. Therefore, Chinese people living in the West, regardless of their poverty or richness, or their low or high status, are never fully ‘accepted’ into Western culture, and live on its periphery whilst abiding within its very heart. For Western Chinese people, diasporic existence (I will not call it ‘living’), is one of permanent exclusion and alienation, whilst pursuing a policy of survival that sees a continuous attempting at appeasing the very Eurocentric culture that rejects them. This might be termed a ‘schizophrenic’ existence which often sees diasporic Chinese people internalise the Western racism of ‘hating’ all things associated with Mainland China. This is why Western narratives written by diasporic Chinese people about Jennifer Pan, do not ‘challenge’, but rather ‘re-enforce’ the Eurocentric interpretation of the case.

Whereas Mainland China has thoroughly rejected the old feudal models of strict Confucianism that used to dominate Chinese society, the diasporic Chinese communities by and large retain various versions of this redundant lifestyle whilst living in the modern world, and Jennifer Pan’s parents were no exception to this. Together they inflicted a ruthless and oppressive lifestyle upon their children that would be considered ‘abuse’ if it were found within a ‘White’ family – and yet Western and Chinese diasporic narratives tend to ‘eulogise’ this barbarity as if it where something good! This is typical of a particular form of bourgeois racism which sentimentalises visions of the ‘other’, and projects an imagined ‘nobility’ upon terrible cultural practises that have no inherent worth in the modern world, and which cause extreme suffering to those subjected to them. Since 1949, modern China has ‘rejected’ all these antiquated methods that designed to mentally and physically ‘force’ children to remember facts they do not understand, and pass tests that have no meaning to them. This parrot-fashion accumulation of facts is not learning, but the forced ingestion of data. Such a process is both backward and highly damaging to the ‘normal’ psychological and physical development of the individual, and does not benefit society as a whole. Education within modern China is a collective effort that benefits society, and which does not regress into the quagmire of selfish individualism.

Whilst the Western and diasporic narrative sentimentalises child abuse, the fact remains that such a redundant method of ancient Chinese culture does not work in the modern world, and this can be seen through the sheer tragic stupidity of Jennifer Pan and her associates. What was she thinking – and why on earth did four men assist in her plan without questioning it? Of course, the Western media paints Jennifer Pan in a racist light, but one which is subtle and not obvious to all but the highly observant. The immorality of her actions are not in dispute (despite the fact that she never pulled the trigger), but when this story hit the news stands, Jennifer Pan became the new face of the racist ‘yellow peril’ phenomenon in the West, that painted all Chinese people as being ethnically and culturally deficient and decadent in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. This Western attitude simply assumes that as all Chinese people are ‘weird’, what else could you expect? What is shocking is how the Chinese diasporic community falls in-line with this Eurocentric racism and never questions it. Such an infantile attitude surely lays the long-term foundation for the next appalling crime committed by a Chinese person living in the West. Only the strict application of logic and reason will extract the Chinese diaspora from this quagmire of racism, and this process requires a ruthless deconstruction of ALL racist narratives.

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Chinese Language references:







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