Shongchai Hang, a 69-year-old Hmong-American minister, was attacked in the Fern Rock neighborhood of northern Philadelphia on July 15. Hang was beaten so badly that he was taken to a nearby medical center for treatment, according to the Philadelphia Police Department.
Hang, who is involved with the Hmong Community Evangelical Lutheran Church, was walking before noon when he was attacked by two men, according to the police. The incident was captured on camera. In the video, the two men demand Hang’s money and cell phone, and after Hang complies, the two men continue to assault him. During the robbery, the two attackers sprayed mace in his face, hit him in the forehead with the empty mace can, and continued to kick him while he was unconscious, according to the police.
A GoFundMe page has been created on his behalf, as Hang is unable to work due to his injuries. Catzie Vilayphonh, the page’s creator, knows Hang through his work as a Laotian outreach coordinator for the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition. “Mr. Hang is also ethnically Hmong, and has done a lot of ‘firsts’ for the Hmong-American community,” Vilayphonh told NBC News. According to Vilayphonh, Hang was responsible for establishing the first Hmong congregation in the Philadelphia area, and led Hmong church services starting in 1989.
Much of his early congregation consisted of newly settled refugees, and Hang still works with the Lao and Hmong communities today, Vilayphonh said, providing translation services and raising awareness about government resources. Hang was also interviewed for a book titled “Hmong America: Reconstructing Community in Diaspora” by author Chia Youyee. In the book, Hang stated that only three Hmong families lived in the city of Philadelphia in 2010, the year of the book’s release. Most of the Hmong population had moved to suburbs.
The Philadelphia Police Department told NBC News that the case is “still being investigated” as a robbery, and that no arrests have been made. Police have published a webpage with additional information about the case.
Hang told Philadelphia-based Fox 29 in an interview that the pain from the attack “will go away, but the drama will stay with [him] forever.” Given an opportunity to speak to his attackers, Hang would say “I forgive you and please do the right thing. Return yourself to police.”