MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities man is accused of kidnapping a teenager and trying to force her to marry him.
Kong Xiong, 21, is also charged with having sex with the 15-year-old girl.
Investigators say he took her from her parents’ home in St. Paul last weekend. Then he brought her to his house in Shoreview and wouldn’t let her go.
Police say Xiong later told them he wanted to marry the girl as was customary in the Hmong culture.
Ramsey County court filings state Xiong yelled at the girl after a violent struggle, telling her: “You will never see your parents again!”
When the girl’s parents learned what happened, prosecutors say they were able to get their daughter back the next day after an argument with Xiong and his family.
Police later arrested Xiong at his home and say during police interviews, Xiong called the 9th-grader his girlfriend and said he planned to marry her in the Hmong culture.
Hmong American Partnership CEO Bao Vang says though she doesn’t know all the specifics of this case, forcing women and even girls to marry is common practice in countries from which Hmong communities live such as Laos and Thailand.
“We call it ‘bride stealing,’ or ‘bride kidnapping,'” Vang said. “You just go force them into your home and you marry them.”
The deep-rooted tradition is one the Hmong American community has worked hard to move past in the 40 years since the Hmong people have been in Minnesota. But Vang says that, unfortunately, a small percentage of the population hasn’t moved past the old tradition.
“I think it will take some more time and law enforcement coming and letting them know it isn’t OK to break the laws here in the United States,” Vang said.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi released a statement saying. “Women and girls are not property, they are human beings who have every right to be free from violence and to live according to how they choose for themselves.”
Vang hopes Xiong’s case can create more conversation about ending the bride stealing practice for good.
Xiong has a prior criminal sexual conduct charge from 2009 relating to another 13-year-old girl. If convicted, Xiong could face more than 20 years in prison.
WCCO-TV reached out to Xiong’s family members for comment but no one answered at the family home.