About 300 people came to the University of Southern California for a memorial service honoring the Chinese graduate student murdered off campus last week. An overflow of guests gathered around monitors set up in a courtyard outside the service at Newman Hall.
Everyone stood silently as the parents and other family members of Xinran Ji entered. His parents, uncles and aunts flew in from China this week.
A poster-sized photo of the 24-year-old in a graduation cap and gown was on the stage next to a huge bouquet of white roses and lilies. Each speaker bowed before the image and then turned and faced his parents, bowing deeply to them.
Several representatives of the university spoke. Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni began the memorial.
“Today we gather in shock and in sadness to mourn the tragic death of our beloved student Xinran Ji who leaves behind a hole no one can fill,” he said. “He was cruelly taken from us far too soon. And his passing has left us heartbroken, filled with confusion, anxiety and despair,” Soni continued. “We ask ourselves, can there be a sorrow greater than this; a lament greater than that for a young life lost?”
Each speaker was translated in Mandarin and English.
The deputy consul general of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles Lei Wang spoke, ending by urging USC and the L.A. Police Department to take further measures to ensure the safety of students.
President of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association Xu Yuan spoke as if talking directly to the deceased Xinran Ji, saying, “We want you to know we will take care of your mom and dad, so please rest peacefully.”
The words drawing the most emotional response came from a representative of the family. An uncle read a message from the father who was sitting in the audience but felt he might not be able to make it through the speech. It was a loving letter written from a father to his son. As the uncle read in Chinese, many of the Mandarin speakers in the auditorium started crying.
Xinran Ji was walking home from a study group at 12:45 a.m. July 24 when he was beaten. He managed to make it back to his apartment, where he was found dead several hours later.
L.A. police arrested four people, including teenagers, in the beating.
Also among those in the audience were half a dozen high school classmates of Xinran Ji, all from inner Mongolia and all studying at different universities in the United States. They flew in from Illinois, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere to be with the family.