Colombia Investigates the Killing of a Hmong American Comedian, Activist

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Founder and organizer Tou Ger Xiong, front, poses with a group of Hmong dancers during Hmong Minnesota Day at the Minnesota State Fair, Sept. 6, 2021, in Falcon Heights, Minn. On Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023, Colombian authorities were investigating the alleged kidnapping and murder of the Hmong American comedian and activist Xiong, who was found dead Monday, Dec. 11, in a wooded area of the northern city Medellín. (Scott Takushi/Pioneer Press via AP)
Founder and organizer Tou Ger Xiong, front, poses with a group of Hmong dancers during Hmong Minnesota Day at the Minnesota State Fair, Sept. 6, 2021, in Falcon Heights, Minn. On Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023, Colombian authorities were investigating the alleged kidnapping and murder of the Hmong American comedian and activist Xiong, who was found dead Monday, Dec. 11, in a wooded area of the northern city Medellín. (Scott Takushi/Pioneer Press via AP)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombian authorities on Wednesday were investigating the alleged kidnapping and murder of a Hmong American comedian and activist who was found dead Monday in a wooded area of the northern city of Medellín.

Prosecutors told reporters that Tou Ger Xiong, 50, arrived in Medellín on 29 November. He went to meet a friend in the city on 10 December. Hours later, he called a friend in the United States to tell him that he was kidnapped and his captors demanded a USD 2,000 ransom to free him, according to prosecutors.

Yiri Amado Sánchez, sectional director of the Medellín prosecutor’s office, indicated that another friend of the activist reported the kidnapping for ransom — a common occurrence in the city. The office did not identify the friend by name.

“The man was the victim of a kidnapping,” Sánchez said, adding that the alleged kidnappers didn’t collect the money.

Xiong, who lived in the St. Paul, Minnesota, suburb of Woodbury, was a comedian, entertainer, storyteller, and social justice activist. He talked about his Hmong heritage and immigrant experience to forge connections with audiences across the country. His family said in a statement issued by his brother, Eh Xiong, that “the pain of his loss is indescribable.”

The family said Tou Ger Xiong, one of 11 siblings, “dedicated his life to building bridges across cultures, to giving voice to those who may not have one, and to working toward justice for all.”

So far this year, Colombian prosecutors have documented the kidnappings of 253 people for attempted extortion.

Three American tourists, including Xiong, have been murdered in Colombia just in the last month, local media reported.