- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Members of an immigrant family that fled China’s population-control policies in the 1990s are mourning the death of their 18-year-old daughter, who was killed last month outside a Hyattsville restaurant.

Zheng Xianjuan, a senior at Northwestern High School, was fatally shot about 10:30 p.m. Sept. 20 outside Sunflowers Carry Out, in a strip mall on Sargent Road.

Prince George’s County Police said they have little information to work with, but speculate that the shooting might have been a case of mistaken identity or part of a botched robbery.

Twelve years ago, family patriarch Zheng Xinbin fled China to make a new life for himself and his kin after his wife had been forced to abort their child six months into her pregnancy.

Mr. Zheng was one of 282 refugee survivors from the Golden Venture, a freighter that ran aground in New York Harbor in June 1993.

The ship contained Chinese democracy activists and nationals fleeing the communist country’s forced abortions and sterilizations. Its grounding attracted heavy news coverage, with TV images of shivering refugees on a nearby beach broadcast nationwide.

Mr. Zheng and most of the other refugees were held as illegal aliens for nearly four years. He was released in 1997; in August 2000, his wife, Rui Zhen, son Zhong and Xianjuan joined him here.

Xianjuan, who earned As and Bs at Northwestern High, worked at a restaurant in Union Station and was planning to enroll in law school, Mr. Zheng said through an interpreter at his family’s Hyattsville apartment.

“She was the one her family relied on,” said a police officer working on the case. “She did the finances, paid the electric bills. … She held that family together.”

The high school senior was “a shining star” and the Zhengs’ hope for the future, family friends said.

Her brother Zhong, 23, has a birth defect, which, under China’s one-child-per-family policy, allowed the Zhengs to have a second child — Xianjuan.

Chinese officials forcibly aborted the Zhengs’ third child early in the 1990s, an event that traumatized Mrs. Zheng, friends said.

Mrs. Zheng now spends her days huddled on the front porch of the family’s apartment building, unresponsive to visitors. Mr. Zheng, 50, a Sunflowers Carry Out cook who speaks little English, is arranging for her return to China, where her relatives can care for her.

“She wants nothing to do with America,” said Beverly Church of Port St. Lucie, Fla., a family friend who engineered Mr. Zheng’s release from detention. “They killed her baby.”

Police said Xianjuan was approached by two men apparently in their 20s outside the restaurant. One of them drew a gun and shot her twice in the head. A burgundy sport utility vehicle — possibly a 1995 to 1998 Chevy Blazer — was spotted near the scene.

A $25,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

“Somebody knows exactly who killed that little girl,” Mrs. Church said. “Someone has got to start paying attention to this.”

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