Portrayal of Chinese as spy risks rebuked
Recent testimony at a congressional hearing singling out Chinese students and scholars as a threat to US national security has prompted a strong response by Chinese-American politicians and other groups.
The comments at issue were made on Feb 13 in Washington during the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual open hearing on the greatest threats facing the US.
During the session, a host of intelligence community leaders shared concerns about dangers around the globe.
US Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida who ran for president in 2016, and FBI Director Christopher Wray discussed whether Chinese students in the US could be covertly gathering intelligence for their government back home.
At one point Rubio asked, “What … is the counterintelligence risk posed to US national security from Chinese students, particularly those in advanced programs in the sciences and mathematics?”
Wray responded that Chinese students and scholars pose a national security threat that requires “a whole-of-society response by us”.
Democratic US representatives Judy Chu and Ted Lieu of California and Grace Meng of New York released statements on Feb 15 in response.
“I condemn these remarks entirely and reject these dangerous attempts to build a case that Chinese students, professors and scholars should be viewed with more suspicion than others,” Chu wrote.
Chu agreed that espionage threats from foreign countries should be taken seriously.
“However, Senator Rubio’s leading question and FBI Director Wray’s sweepingly broad response were completely irresponsible generalizations that attempt to paint all Chinese students and scholars as spies for China,” Chu wrote.
She provided the examples of Sherry Chen and Xi Xiaoxing, two Chinese-American scientists who were accused of espionage by the FBI only to have the charges dropped without explanation.
“This caused irreparable harm to their careers, reputations and lives, and many Asian-American students, scientists and scholars now fear that they may be subjected to the same discrimination,” Chu wrote.
Chu called for the highestranking law enforcement officials in the US to not create an environment that encourages individuals to view Chinese and Chinese Americans with more suspicion.
“There are certain policies and actions by our government that, while directed at foreign nationals, could affect Americans who happen to be of certain ethnicities,” Lieu wrote.
“I called on FBI Director Wray to clarify his comments and make a strong statement that Chinese-Americans are not viewed by the FBI as any more suspicious than any other American,” he wrote.
“The intelligence community, rightfully, should always be concerned about foreign nationals who have access to our most sensitive secrets,” wrote Meng. “That, however,