Charges against Temple University physics professor Xi Xiaoxing are dropped. Photo: New York Times
House of Representatives member Ted Lieu and 42 members of Congress recently called on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch a Justice Department investigation into whether there was racism or ethnicity behind the arrests of Chinese American scientists Xi Xiaoxing and Sherry Chen on espionage charges.
National Weather Service employee Sherry Chen of Ohio and Temple University physics professor Xi Xiaoxing of Penn Valley, Pa., were arrested on suspicion of espionage. Charges in both instances were dropped with little explanation before going to court.
The China Press in September expressed its support in an editorial for such an investigation to find out whether there was an ongoing pattern or practice of people of color being singled out by federal enforcement or prosecutors.
Xi was accused of sharing with Chinese counterparts secret blueprints of a sensitive US-made pocket heater used in superconductor research. But it turned out the blueprints had nothing to do with that device. The false indictment shattered Xi’s reputation and left him with a hefty attorney fee.
Chen was accused of using a stolen password to access information about dams and passing the information to Chinese officials. Chen said she was arrested at work by six FBI employees. She lost her job and couldn’t afford the legal expenses.
Five Chinese American scientists have been charged with the theft of trade secrets and economic spying so far this year and all the charges were dropped for lack of evidence or wrongful allegation.
It devastated the scientists’ life and had ill effects on scientific exchanges between China and the US. Lieu said it’s ridiculous to probe the Chinese American scientists only because they had contacts with their family members.
The accusations also caused insecurity among the scientists of Asian origin. Chinese American Rep. Judy Chu said the scientists felt insecure after the false indictments. As China Press had previously noted, “The McCarthyism will damage the China-US ties, disrupt the racial harmony and cast a shadow over Asian Americans’ life.”
This is not crying wolf as we can find a trace in history. American author William Manchester elaborated in his book The Glory and the Dream how ignorant and reckless the government was during the McCarthy era. The FBI probed some 2 million people, from postmen to ministers, who were employees of the federal government, on May 22, 1949 in a bid to find alleged communist infiltration. Seth Richardson, former chairman of the Temporary Commission on Employee Loyalty, which was set up to wipe out communists from the US government, said after the loyalty investigation that not a single evidence of espionage was found.
The unsubstantiated screenings of employees wreaked havoc on the US in the 1950s. The Freedom Magazine once said in an article that all scientists are suspected of subversion. The government was unable to hire a young nuclear physicist at that time. Chinese late scientist Qian Xuesen, who was highly appreciated by the US, opted to return to China due to the groundless and sweeping investigation.
Judy Chu urged joint efforts from the Asian-Pacific community and the rest in stopping the groundless accusations against Chinese American scientists. We call for a full investigation into whether racism or ethnicity played a role in charging the Chinese scientists. Those who are found guilty shall be brought to justice and the wrongly charged shall be compensated. Scientists belong to lab, not court.