Last November, 61-year-old GuiYing Ma was sweeping a Queens sidewalk when a man approached. According to reports, the two had a verbal dispute and the man attacked Ma with a large rock. The attacker, 33-year-old Elisaul Perez, who had at least 11 prior arrests on his record, was charged with assault and harassment. The attack left Ma with multiple lacerations and permanent brain damage, and she was placed on a ventilator and a feeding tube. Last week, her family confirmed that she had died from complications from her injuries.
Ma came to New York from Liaoning, China, in 2018 and is survived by her husband, son, and grandchildren. She is at least the fourth person of Asian descent in New York City to die as a result of violence against the AAPI community in recent months. Other victims include Christina Yuna Lee, who was followed into her Chinatown apartment and stabbed to death in February; Michelle Go, who was pushed onto subway tracks in January; and Yao Pan Ma, who was attacked last year while collecting cans on an East Harlem street and later died from his injuries.
From 2019 to 2020, the number of hate crimes against AAPI community members in major cities across the country has increased by a staggering 150 percent. The crimes have stoked fear, anxiety, and unrest within the city’s AAPI communities. Yet, to the outrage of many, not all of these crimes are classified as hate crimes, as prosecutors face barriers to proving racist motives behind attacks against Asians.
It’s unclear whether Ma’s attacker will be charged with a hate crime, though authorities did report the initial attack to the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force. In their responses to Ma’s death, many leaders have explicitly condemned anti-Asian violence. “We recommit to protecting our Asian communities and every community from hatred and violence,” New York City mayor Eric Adams wrote on Twitter. On Facebook, New York State attorney general Letitia James wrote: “These hateful acts of violence against our Asian communities must come to an end. #Stop AsianHate.”
On a GoFundMe page for Ma’s memorial, her family wrote that she “will be remembered as an outgoing, friendly and kind individual who took care of everyone, and insisted on giving to others even when she had very little to give.”