U.S. lawmakers, rights group demand answers after United Airlines passenger dragged off plane

Updated 2017-04-15 09:00:41 Xinhua

Some U.S. lawmakers and an Asian-American rights group are demanding answers from United Airlines after its violent removal of an Asian-American passenger from a flight on Sunday night.

Earlier this week saw a video going viral of David Dao on social media. The 69-year-old Asian-American physician was violently removed from an overbooked United Airlines flight by security officers to make room for crew members at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago after refusing to give up his seat as requested.

The video of the incident posted online has been viewed millions of times worldwide, and caused a global uproar and grabbed headlines in multiple countries.

Many people in the United States, Vietnam, China and a number of other countries have expressed outrage at the mistreatment of Dao, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s.

"It remains to be seen if Dr. Dao was racially profiled for removal from the United flight, but we believe a full and transparent investigation is necessary to determine if there were racial biases at work," John C. Yang, president and executive director of Washington-based rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said in a statement sent to Xinhua.

The use of force in this situation was "inappropriate," Yang said.

"The incident is also indicative of the continued concerns that vulnerable communities, including African Americans and Latinos, have raised for a long time regarding use of excessive police force," he said.

Asian Americans have faced the same discriminatory challenges for over 100 years, and have seen a renewed surge in hate and discrimination against them, Yang said.

"It is easy to understand why some would question the motives of the airline, airport security, and law enforcement personnel as targeting an Asian American, a community of people often falsely viewed as the least likely to speak out against situations like this one," Yang said.

"The fact that the victim is Asian American and from a distinguished profession should only further prove to Asian Americans that we all have to be part of this broader coalition against hate, police brutality, and disparate treatment of communities color and other marginalized communities," he added.

Members of the U.S. Congress have also expressed concern, as U.S. House Representative Judy Chu, a Chinese American, has written both to the United Airlines and to the U.S. Department of Transportation demanding answers.

Chu, chair of the U.S. Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), said she is extremely "disturbed" over the violent treatment of Dao.

"It is unacceptable to treat any human being in this manner, and the United Airlines has to change its policy," Chu told Xinhua in a phone interview on Wednesday from her home state of California.

A bipartisan group of senators also sent a pair of letters earlier this week to United, demanding a "full accounting" of what happened, and are demanding a response by next week.

The letters were signed by Senators John Thune, the Senate's third highest ranking Republican, and Bill Nelson, a Democrat representing Florida, Roy Blunt, a Republican representing Missouri, and Maria Cantwell, a Democrat representing Washington State.

In a separate letter to United Airlines, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono joined a group of senators earlier this week to demand answers from the airline.

"Consumer trust and confidence are critical to ensure this industry continues to thrive, and we hope United Airlines will work diligently to immediately address this incident and make necessary improvements to ensure it does not occur again," the letter said.

While United CEO Oscar Munoz has apologized, lawmakers argue that United's response seemed not to understand the level of outrage worldwide over the incident.

In response to the United incident, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen is drafting a bill to make it illegal to forcibly remove passengers from commercial airlines, and is now seeking co-sponsors for the legislation, according to local media.

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