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After his wife’s accidental death, a San Francisco man wants to move back to China

Rongan Liang (left) receives $800 cash assistance from charity group Tzu Chi after his wife's death. | Source: Courtesy photo

Update: On Aug. 21, the San Francisco Police Department announced that Yanfang Wu's death was officially ruled an accident. Unless new evidence emerges, the case will remain closed.

Ten years after he immigrated to the U.S. from China, Rongan Liang’s American dream has turned into a San Francisco tragedy, as he and his wife lost their house to a fire and she died only weeks later.

Liang’s wife, 63-year-old Yanfang Wu, was shoved to the ground and seriously injured near a Bayview bus stop in early July. She died two days later. The case has attracted considerable public and media attention as it was initially ruled as an accident and no arrest has been made.

Liang, a 72-year-old retiree and a monolingual Chinese speaker, is now alone in San Francisco with no direct relatives in the area. He wants to move back to China, where his son currently lives.

Liang declined to be interviewed for this story but said through various community groups that he still hasn’t fully recovered from what happened.

Police Chief: ‘It’s Not Resolved’

Very little information about the case has been released to the public since the death.

The fatal push happened on July 3 at about 6:30 p.m. The San Francisco Police Department said Wu was walking on the sidewalk when she was approached from behind by an unknown female who pushed her, causing her to fall to the ground and hit her head.

On July 5, Wu died, and the incident was initially investigated as a possible homicide. However, sources within the police department said that the case was later ruled as an accident after officers reviewed surveillance video evidence.

The police identified, detained, interviewed and released a person of interest, but there is insufficient evidence to establish probable cause and make an arrest.

According to the charity group Tzu Chi and the nonprofit Community Youth Center, which have been providing assistance to Liang, Wu worked in a restaurant in the Sunset District and she was returning home from work at the time. Liang was going to the bus station to walk his wife home, when he witnessed the push.

About three weeks after Wu’s death, amid criticism that the department was failing to handle the case properly, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott stated that the investigation was ongoing.

“It’s not resolved,” Scott said at an event last week condemning violence targeting Asian elders. “We have more work to do.”

Returning to China

At this time, because his wife’s death is not considered a criminal case, Liang is not qualified to apply for certain crime victim aid programs. According to Michael Wong of Community Youth Center, Liang has borrowed money to pay for his wife’s funeral. The center is also assisting him with applying for emergency funding from the city.

Paul Ng, a volunteer at Tzu Chi, which gave Liang $800 in cash assistance, said that Liang’s son in China also wants his father to return to live with him, and was very worried about Liang. 

Wu’s body will be cremated and Liang will bring the ashes back to China.

Chinese language media reported that Liang and his wife moved to the Bayview because their Richmond District home had a fire in June. At that time, Tzu Chi gave them $500 to help with moving costs.

Both organizations said that Liang is unsure of what to do as long as his wife’s death remains an accident, and they may recommend he seek legal advice.

Han Li can be reached at