San Francisco, California – After 24 years of hoping for a peaceful retirement in San Francisco, 87-year-old Rongxin Liao has decided to return to China for good due to a series of violent assaults in the crime-ridden city. The former steel worker, who gained US citizenship in 2005, had hoped to make a new life for himself and his son in the US after the death of his wife, but the unrelenting violence has left his family in terror.
Liao, who lives in an assisted living facility, has been repeatedly hospitalized since his arrival in San Francisco, including one notorious incident in March 2021 when he was kicked out of his walker while waiting for a bus in the Tenderloin district. This incident, caught on video, left him unconscious with serious head injuries. Another assault in October 2023, when he was repeatedly punched as he went to Walgreens for his medication, was the final straw for him and his family.
The escalation of violence and the overall public safety situation in San Francisco has led Liao to make the difficult decision to return to China to be cared for by his younger son, leaving behind his elder son who emigrated alongside him. The decision comes amid a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in the city, with 247 incidents recorded in 2021 compared to just 19 in 2014.
The challenges faced by Liao have made him a figurehead for the successful recall election of ultra-progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin in 2022. Boudin, who has since been replaced by Brooke Jenkins, faced criticism for his policies, and Liao sees no prospect of improvement in the city’s public safety situation.
Beyond personal experiences, the city of San Francisco faces a broader crisis of urban squalor, with open-air drug markets, an exodus of businesses and retailers, and an increase in violent crime. The city’s response to these issues has sparked further controversy, with the decision to clear vagrants from the streets in preparation for an international summit stirring anger among locals.
As Liao prepares to bid farewell to his friends in San Francisco, his story underscores the deep impact of social and public safety issues on the lives of individuals and families, sparking broader conversations about the state of American cities and the challenges they face. The city’s struggles reflect broader issues surrounding urban safety, social policies, and the effects of economic and social changes on communities across the United States.