Fearing for His Safety, Elderly Asian Man Leaves San Francisco After Brutal Attacks

February 5, 2024 - Reading time: 3 minutes

SAN FRANCISCO - 87-year-old Rongxin Liao gazed out the airplane window as the lights of San Francisco slowly faded from view. He was leaving behind the city he had called home for over 30 years. After a string of vicious assaults that left him hospitalized twice, Liao made the difficult decision to move back to China permanently.

"I have lost count of how many times I have been attacked and robbed," Liao told reporters in Cantonese prior to his departure. "I used to enjoy my daily walks in the park, visiting Chinatown to shop and eat dim sum with my friends. But now I do not feel safe going outside alone anymore."

Liao's fears are shared by many in San Francisco's Asian American community. Anti-Asian hate crimes have skyrocketed across the Bay Area in recent years. Just last month, an 89-year-old Chinese grandmother was slammed to the ground in an unprovoked attack. Liao himself was brutally assaulted in 2020 by an attacker who kicked him to the ground while he was walking with his walker.

Disturbing security footage shows Liao crumpling to the sidewalk as the assailant calmly walks away. Liao suffered serious injuries that hospitalized him for over a week. His attacker was later arrested and charged with assault and elder abuse.

At the court hearings, a frail Liao pleaded with the judge to punish his attacker with the full extent of the law. But after a lenient sentence with no prison time was handed down, Liao's family realized the justice system had failed them.

Liao's case soon appeared in an advertisement sponsored by the campaign to recall former SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Critics accused Boudin of being too soft on crime and ignoring victims like Liao. Boudin was ultimately ousted in June 2022.

But the damage had already been done for victims like Liao. Despite the DA recall, attacks on Asian seniors have continued at an alarming rate. Liao no longer recognizes the San Francisco he once loved.

At 87 years old, he worries that the next attack could take his life. And so he has chosen to spend his remaining years in his hometown of Guangzhou, China, where his son says he can live without fear.

On Chinese-language social media, many elder San Franciscans have expressed admiration for Liao's courageous decision. But others worry that his departure sends the message that racism and violence have won. Liao says he bears no bitterness or resentment. He only hopes young Asian Americans will not give up the fight for justice and safety in the community he still loves.

Darren Stephenson

Darren Stephenson writing spans a wide range of topics, from in-depth political analysis to human interest stories. His unique perspective and engaging narrative style have earned him a loyal readership. Darren's commitment to journalistic integrity and his ability to connect with readers make him a standout voice in modern journalism.