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Justice for Heng Lim

South Philadelphia, 1989

One of AAU’s earliest organized campaigns against anti-Asian violence began when Heng Lim, a Cambodian American man, was beaten to death in front of his family by a man who called him a “f**king Chinese.”

Although police arrived in time to see the murderer leave the scene, the officers didn’t chase down the man but rather brought Heng Lim’s entire family to the police station. The family was detained for more than four hours while Heng Lim lay dying alone in a hospital. By the time they were released, Heng Lim was dead.

It was five weeks later – only after Asian Americans United organized a citywide Committee for Justice for Heng Lim – that the police arrested the murderer and the District Attorney agreed to try the case as a racially motivated attack. The Committee for Justice for Heng Lim held accountability sessions with the police. And the District Attorney’s office, provided direct support to the family, and organized a community presence in the courtroom.

Youth in AAU’s first Youth Leadership Program broadened the depth of the campaign by mobilizing in solidarity with the Puerto Rican community’s struggle for justice for another victim of racist violence, Steven Crespo.

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