Reps Raskin and Chu Hold Roundtable with Chinese American Scientists

Dr. Xiaoxing Xi and Sherry Chen Recounted Their False Arrests and Prosecution by the FBI and Department of Justice

June 30, 2021, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representative Jamie Raskin, Chair of the Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Representative Judy Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), held a roundtable entitled “Researching while Chinese American: Ethnic Profiling, Chinese American Scientists and a New American Brain Drain.”

Representative Raskin opened the roundtable, denouncing ethnic profiling, saying:
“That is not acceptable in the United States of America, which was founded on principles of equality and justice.  We reject guilt by association, we reject notions of collective guilt or ethnic or racial guilt.  The United States is a welcoming place, it is open to people of all backgrounds and to creative ideas, and to scientific research and inquiry.  That is how we established ourselves as a world leader in innovation and technology, by allowing for free-flowing thoughts and theories.  By targeting people who are ethnically Chinese, without evidence, we are hampering our ability to be that world leader and we are harming an entire community.”  
In her opening, Representative Chu echoed Representative Raskin’s concerns, and stated:
“We need to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the Cold War. That means not spreading unfounded suspicions that paint all Chinese people as threats and which put innocent Chinese Americans at risk.” 
  • Sherry Chen, a renowned hydrologist who was falsely accused of espionage in 2014, described the long-lasting effects of her mistaken arrest:  “Until now, my life is still in limbo. My reputation is still under a cloud. The ordeal has taken away precious time in my professional career, and I can never recover the years I have lost. This injustice has now entered its tenth year and sadly there is still no end in sight. I keep fighting not only for myself but to do my part to make sure no one should ever be harmed because of their race or country origin.”
  • The Honorable Steven Chu, former Secretary of Energy and current Stanford professor, characterized the impact of racial profiling on Chinese American scientists:  “Many of my Chinese-American faculty colleagues feel that they are under increased and unjustified scrutiny by the U.S. government. The Department of Justice’s ‘China Initiative’ and statements by U.S. funding agencies is [sic] creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.”
  • Dr. Randy Katz, the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of California, Berkeley, expressed how this targeting has affected the grater scientific community:  “These investigations and related actions – such as the increased interrogation of Chinese-American researchers by Customs and Border Patrol officers at airports – have resulted in a chilling effect on our Chinese-American research community in particular, and America’s international collaborations and our continued ability to attract the world’s best and brightest. My university has seen a precipitous decline in graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and visiting students from China that began even before the Covid-19 pandemic. This will have ramifications for America’s research enterprise for many years to come.”
  • Dr. Xiaoxing Xi, a professor of physics at Temple University and naturalized citizen who was falsely arrested for alleged spying in 2015, explained:  “People have asked me, ‘How can the Department of Justice avoid wrongly accusing innocent people like they did in your case?’ My answer is that they can’t unless they stop considering Chinese professors, scientists, and students as nontraditional collectors, or spies, for China. For example, in all the criminal cases involving university professors under the China Initiative, the DOJ has shown no evidence, zero, that those charged have stolen intellectual property. Yet, they are being prosecuted for felony crimes.”
Reps. Raskin and Chu also received numerous statements from concerned advocates and experts, including:
  • Maryland Senator Susan C. Lee, who contextualized the current racial profiling in the broader history of discrimination against Asian-Americans.
  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which explained how actions taken by the Department of Justice and research grantmaking agencies has a chilling effect on international scientific collaboration.
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, which submitted a number of recommendations of how to address racial profiling.
  • Asian American Scholar Forum, which noted that Asian American professors chose to stay in the United States because they “believe, in democracy, freedom of speech, rule of law, and the research environment of freedom and exploration without fear.”
  • Asian Pacific American (APA) Justice, which explained that “whether it is with malice or implicit bias or both, the checks and balance system has failed not only individuals but also an entire group of people who are targeted for their race, ethnicity, and national origin.”
  • The Committee of 100, which submitted its white paper and executive summary on Prosecuting Chinese “Spies:” An Empirical Analysis of the Economic Espionage Act.
  • Defending Rights & Dissent, which raised concerns about the FBI’s rhetoric around the “alleged threat from Chinese Americans in academia.”
  • And Patrick Eddington, of Defending Rights & Dissent, who expressed that freedom of association and open scientific exchange are “absolutely essential to advance human progress on a range of issues.”