HomeAsian AmericansHmong legislators rushed off stage by chair, calls for apology

Hmong legislators rushed off stage by chair, calls for apology

An event hosted by the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans on April 3 took a turn when the chair interrupted several speeches by Hmong legislators, spurring a community petition calling for a public apology. 

The event was held at the Minnesota State Capitol and was meant to celebrate the contributions of the APPI community. State senators Susan Pha and Foung Hawj were scheduled to speak, but when it was noticed they brought two additional members of the council, chair Saraswati Singh rushed them off the stage, Sahan Journal reported. 

These two members were Hmong American Representatives Ethan Cha and Kaohly Vang-Her. Singh reportedly told the group that they took up time from other speakers and called out the elected officials for bringing additional speakers. 

“Of all the legislators who spoke, our [Asian Pacific Islander] legislators were the only ones that were interrupted while we spoke, told to get off the stage, and also told that we were not invited,” said Pha in a Facebook video after the event, Sahan Journal reported. 

The community petition said Singh “rudely instructed them to cease their speeches and leave the podium and directed disparaging comments towards two of them.” It demands a formal apology from Singh and have the Governor’s office conduct an investigation on the integrity of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans.

“This incident, marked by an apparent lack of respect and recognition towards AAPI legislators by the Council’s leadership, is deeply troubling. This petition strongly urges that Chair Singh issue a formal apology for the council’s actions, which were discriminatory and undermined the dignity of our AAPI legislators. Furthermore, it is imperative that appropriate disciplinary measures are taken against the Council. Their actions have significantly eroded the trust, credibility, and confidence of the AAPI community and the AAPI legislators. It is crucial that these steps are taken to begin the process of rebuilding trust and ensuring such incidents do not occur in the future,” the petition reads. 

The incident came after a disagreement during a panel on March 27 that was discussing a bill to celebrate 50 years of Hmong and Southeast Asian communities in Minnesota. Four representatives supported the bill, but there were six objections, including Singh, Minnesota House of Representatives reported. 

Singh was concerned that the bill only mentioned the Hmong community and failed to note the Cambodian, Vietnamese, Laotian and other communities. The primary sponsor of the bill, Rep. Liz Lee, said the bill was largely misunderstood.

“I think there’s a question of why Southeast Asian and Hmong, and the explanation there is our own federal government doesn’t recognize Hmong as Southeast Asian, so we just want to make sure there’s no ambiguity there,” said Lee, Minnesota House of Representatives reported. 

Among the more than 200 people who signed the petition is the council’s former executive director Lee Pao Xiong, Sahan Journal reported. 

“That was very unprofessional,” Xiong said, Sahan Journal reported. “The state Legislature created you, and your role is to advise the governor and state legislature on issues affecting your respective communities. The API legislators have every right to be there in front of their constituents.”

The incident spurred outrage on social media. A comment by Facebook user Khaab Npauj Nyag reads, “How awful and ironic that only the API and HMong legislators were treated disrespectfully, and told they were not invited to an API Day at the Capitol! How does that foster unity??? Very disappointed in Sarawswati Singh, and how she treats HMong legislators. Her prejudice against HMong people is clear.”

Rep. Vang-Her released a post in which she expressed her frustrations that the council “gate keeps who gets to be heard, seen, and on stage,” Sahan Journal reported. 

“When I speak at rallies and events I bring up all of my colleagues in attendance. Why? Because this work isn’t about me. Nothing gets done because of one person. I want the people, ‘We the People’ to see the collective of who is fighting hard everyday for them,” reads the post by Vang-Her, Sahan Journal reported.

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  1. From what I read here: 1) it is correct to call the behavior of the Chair out publicly, and 2) furthermore insist on a public apology.


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