US pressed over sci­en­tists’ spy cases

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By HUA SHENGDUN in Wash­ing­ton

The United States Com­mis­sion on Civil Rights has sent a let­ter to the US at­tor­ney gen­eral ar­gu­ing that the gov­ern­ment may be “fail­ing to ex­er­cise suf­fi­cient due dili­gence” in crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­volv­ing Chi­nese Amer­i­cans.

The USCCR, a bi­par­ti­san, in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, is­sued a press release on Mon­day to re­in­force the Nov 18 let­ter sent to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch re­gard­ing high-pro­file pros­e­cu­tions of two Chi­nese-Amer­i­can sci­en­tists.

Sherry Chen, a hy­drol­o­gist with the US Na­tional Weather Ser­vice in Ohio, and Xiaox­ing Xi, for­mer chair of the Physics Depart­ment at Tem­ple Univer­sity in Philadel­phia, were ac­cused of eco­nomic es­pi­onage. Charges against both were sub­se­quently dropped.

Chen, a nat­u­ral­ized US cit­i­zen, was ac­cused of down­load­ing in­for­ma­tion about dams in the United States and ly­ing about meet­ing with a Chi­nese of­fi­cial. The charges were dis­missed in March. Af­ter the in­ci­dent, 22 mem­bers of Congress sent a let­ter to the Jus­tice Depart­ment on May 21.

“What I don’t understand the most is why my agency hasn’t given back my job yet,” Chen said at a Nov 17 press con­fer­ence. “I lost my job, which is the only fi­nan­cial source for me to sur­vive.”

Xi was ar­rested on charges of shar­ing confidential schemat­ics of lab­o­ra­tory equip­ment with sci­en­tists in China. FBI agents raided his home and hand­cuffed him in front of his wife and chil­dren. The charges against Xi, also a nat­u­ral­ized Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, were dropped in Septem­ber af­ter sci­en­tists, in­clud­ing the co-in­ven­tor of the equip­ment, told the gov­ern­ment that the blueprints were not for the equip­ment.

“Yes, I have col­lab­o­ra­tion with my Chi­nese col­leagues, but so do other non-Chi­nese sci­en­tists,” Xi said at the Nov 17 press con­fer­ence. “Is it be­cause of my eth­nic­ity that I’m more sus­pi­cious than other sci­en­tists? FBI should have called me and asked me what I was do­ing, and how I did my re­search. That is how they usu­ally con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion for the white-col­lar cases, but they did not.”

“While com­bat­ing spy­ing and eco­nomic es­pi­onage is vi­tal to our na­tional se­cu­rity, just as im­por­tant are the pro­tec­tions of our civil rights and civil lib­er­ties,” Com­mis­sion Chair­man Martin R. Cas­tro, on be­half of a ma­jor­ity of the com­mis­sion, said in the release. “Amer­i­can cit­i­zens are en­ti­tled to due process and should not be tar­geted on the ba­sis of their race or eth­nic­ity — that is un-Amer­i­can.”

“We write to urge you to ex­am­ine whether, in the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to stop es­pi­onage, it may be rush­ing to judg­ment in in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­volv­ing Asian Amer­i­cans, pri­mar­ily of Chi­nese de­scent,” the Nov 18 let­ter said. “The Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s re­sponse has been to dis­miss th­ese con­cerns with­out ad­dress­ing the un­der­ly­ing poli­cies and prac­tices that led to mis­takes which pre­cip­i­tated th­ese wrong­ful pros­e­cu­tions of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens.”

Forty- two mem­bers of Congress sent a let­ter to Lynch on Nov 5 about the cases. Con­gress­woman Judy Chu of Cal­i­for­nia or­ga­nized the Nov 17 press con­fer­ence and was joined by three oth­ers US rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the Capi­tol Build­ing.

“Sim­i­lar to the re­cent re­quest of 42 mem­bers of Congress call­ing for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we urge you to in­ves­ti­gate whether fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors and pros­e­cu­tors im­prop­erly over­re­lied on race in re­cent pros­e­cu­tions, and to in­crease train­ing and over­sight over on­go­ing and fu­ture in­ves­ti­ga­tions and pros­e­cu­tions against Chi­nese Amer­i­cans for spy­ing and es­pi­onage,” the Nov 18 let­ter said.

“As the Depart­ment of Jus­tice states in its 2014 guidance on the use of race, bi­ased law en­force­ment prac­tices ‘have a ter­ri­ble cost, not only for in­di­vid­u­als but also for the na­tion as a whole’.”

The Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s re­sponse has been to dis­miss th­ese con­cerns.”

Pan Jialiang in Wash­ing­ton con­trib­uted to this story.

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