Prominent Hmong comedian and activist Tou Ger Xiong was found dead on Dec. 11 in the Colombian city of Medellin. He was reportedly killed after he went to meet a woman he’d been chatting with online, according to Colombian authorities.
His murder is the latest in a string of sometimes deadly robberies aimed at mostly male tourists in Colombia where criminal groups use dating applications and social media to pinpoint their intended victims.
Eh Xiong, his brother, told local news station KSTP-TV that he last heard from his brother on Sunday evening when he asked for $2,000, which he sent. Tou Ger Xiong never confirmed receiving the money. Eh Xiong also said that when he didn’t receive a response after a couple hours, he called Tou Ger Xiong’s roommate, who told him that he also received a phone call from him, saying that he was being “held at gunpoint.”
Tou Ger Xiong’s body was discovered the next day beside a ravine in a woody area of the Robledo neighborhood of Medellin with more than a dozen stab wounds, authorities said.
Colombian investigator Yiri Milena Amado told local media in a press conference that Tou Ger Xiong went to meet the woman on Sunday and at 7 p.m. he contacted someone in the United States asking for $2,000. Authorities said they believed he may have been killed after he tried to escape.
Colombian authorities have not announced any arrests in the case, but Eh Xiong told KSTP that the police “found some clothes, blood, you know, on the bag, and they were able to confiscate that and apprehend one of the suspects.”
Authorities said that he was the 27th non-migrant foreigner killed in Medellin and the surrounding area in 2023.
In recent years, small criminal groups have targeted tourists in Colombia via dating apps and social media, who believe they are setting up a blind date. Sometimes the tourists are directly kidnapped while on the date, other times they are lured to secluded locations where they are drugged and robbed. Colombia is notorious for robberies using the dangerous sedative scopolamine, also known as “devil’s breath”, which leaves people in a stupor for sometimes days at a time, while their bank accounts are drained. In recent years, other synthetic drugs like clonazepam and benzodiazepines have become more common in similar attacks, which can sometimes be deadly.
In November, 2022 a Vietnamese-American tourist named Paul Nguyen is believed to have died from an overdose of clonazepam in one such attack after meeting a woman on Tinder. Three people, including the woman, were arrested for the crime six months later.
Authorities did not specify how Tou Ger Xiong met the woman, or how he ended up kidnapped.
Tou Ger Xiong’s death hit the Hmong community hard, especially in the Twin Cities area.
Eh Xiong wrote in a statement that Tou Ger Xiong “dedicated his life to building bridges across cultures, to giving voice for those who may not have one, and to working towards justice for all.” The family intends to create a non-profit in his name.
Tou Ger Xiong wrote in a biography available online that his family fled Laos when he was a small child after the communist takeover because his father worked with the C.I.A. In 1996, he created Project Respectism, “an educational service project that uses comedy, storytelling and rap music to bridge cultures and generations. Since then, Project Respectism has evolved into a program that provides cultural entertainment and education for people of all professions and backgrounds.”
Chee Xiong (no relation), the Director of Partnerships & Development for the Hmong Museum of Minnesota, recalled Tou Ger Xiong’s impact in a post on Facebook.
“A generation of Hmong kids grew up and watched the video cassette of you or saw your live performance at school. We laughed, we giggled, and we awed at seeing someone who looked like us. Someone who understood us, humor we could culturally connect with as first and second generation Hmong Americans. Then we all grew up and saw you in the streets, in the media, drawing attention to pressing matters important to the Hmong community,” said Chee Xiong. “ An huge loss for the Hmong community. Mus zoo koj-os brother Tou Ger Xiong.”
Source : Vice