Washington’s campaign against scholars with ties to China is under pressure because another case collapsed


Supporters say the Chinese initiative has become an excuse for racial profiling, which is part of the United States’ long history of treating Asian Americans as untrustworthy foreigners. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited Chinese immigrants from entering the United States for 10 years. During World War II, the federal government detained hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans.During the Clinton and Obama administrations, a series of espionage cases against Chinese-American scientists ended in failure, including Li Wenhe Temple University Los Alamos National Laboratory Xi Xiaoxing, And Sherry Chen of the National Weather Service.

“The China initiative is clearly based on the theory that people of Chinese descent-even if they are American or Canadian citizens-violate American laws for their benefit… Beijing,” said Frank Wu, dean of Queens College, City University of New York .He said that under this system, “common behaviors such as scientific cooperation or visiting mothers [in China] Suddenly became suspicious. ”

Huang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said it also had a chilling effect on Chinese-American scientists. He said that in his regular meetings with the Asian American Scholars Forum, others expressed fear of being arrested, fear of losing funds, and fear of the way non-Asian colleagues might view them. He said that young PhD students are no longer looking for professorships in the United States, and well-known scientists are now looking for international options.A number Return to China to take up important positionsAfter their careers in the United States were destroyed-this is the result of the Chinese initiative hoped to avoid.

“It’s terrible, and it’s very common. We see this atmosphere of fear sweeping over Chinese-American scientists,” Huang said. “Because of the Chinese initiative, the United States is losing the most talented people to other countries. This is not good for science. This is not good for the United States.”

Hu case revealed

For activists and civil society researchers who have been following the “China Initiative”, Hu’s case is not surprising at all.

Mr. Hu is a Chinese Canadian and a well-known researcher in nanotechnology. In 2013, the University of Tennessee hired him to teach and continue his research. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Hu revealed on multiple occasions that he had been a part-time professor, graduate student and researcher at Beijing University of Technology.

“The Chinese initiative is clearly based on the theory that ethnic Chinese have racial affinity and violate U.S. laws for the benefit of Beijing.”

Frank Wu, City University of New York

None of these caused any problems at the time. When Hu began to cooperate with NASA, NASA was legally prohibited from funding any research involving “participation, cooperation, or coordination” with “Chinese or Chinese companies”. UT managers assured him and government agencies that this Part-time work does not violate restrictions. The law is intended to apply to NASA, not its research collaborators.

However, in 2018, the FBI identified Hu as a potential spy. In court testimony, agent Sadiku stated that he found and “roughly translated” a Chinese press release and flyer through Google, which implied that Hu had been awarded a short-term contract for the Thousand Talents Program. This is enough for Sadiku to launch a formal investigation.

Hu said that when Sadiku visited Hu’s office for the first time, the agent tried to get him to admit that he had participated in a talent plan.

“They said,’You are so smart. You should be in the Thousand Talents Plan,'” he recalled during the trial. “I said,’I’m not that smart.'”

Sadiku also tried to persuade him to become a spy for the US government, using his work at Peking University as a cover. After Sadik’s visit, Hu refused via email. After that, Sadik doubled his investigation and put Hu and his son, who was a freshman at UT at the time, under surveillance.

But nearly two years later, Sadiku dropped the spy accusation and began to construct the fraud case that Hu was eventually accused of. The evidence is based on a form that the university requires scholars to fill out, disclosing any outside work that earns more than $10,000. Hu did not disclose his part-time job because his income was less than $2,000. Sadikku said that this is evidence that Hu deliberately concealed his China-related work in order to deceive NASA. However, the jury was unable to make a decision, and the deadlock triggered a trial.

The FBI is under pressure

Observers said that the details of the case echoed the details of others brought as part of the “China Initiative”: the spy investigation of a Chinese-American researcher was carried out with little evidence, and was not found later. Change the allegations when there are signs of economic espionage.

According to the former German FBI agent, this was due to “the FBI agents across the country, every FBI field office, [and] Every U.S. Attorney’s Office makes a case that fits the framework because they must prove statistical achievements. ”

“The Ministry of Justice does not need special measures against China to hunt down spies. They should be able to use normal methods and procedures.”

Alex Nolast, Cato Institute

On Thursday, June 17, shortly after the news of the failed trial came out, members of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives wrote to the Inspector General of the Department of Justice Request the Department of Justice to investigate Whether there is sufficient evidence unrelated to race or ethnicity for the FBI to file a case, whether the bureau used false information and made false statements, and whether the Chinese initiative resulted in “adverse pressure” for ethnic and racial characterization.

Prior to this, more and more people asked to investigate whether the plan led to such analysis and called for the plan to be terminated completely.

“The U.S. Department of Justice does not need special measures against China to hunt down spies,” said Alex Norast, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Immigration Research and Trade Policy Research. “They should be able to use their normal methods and procedures.”

Hu’s trial showed that “the scope of China’s espionage activities may be much smaller than people think,” he added. “If there are more, you will think it will be easier to find, and they don’t have to fabricate cases.”

As for Hu, his nightmare is far from over.

He is still under house arrest, waiting for the Ministry of Justice to decide to renew or dismiss the case, or the judge completely rejects the government’s allegations. Since his US work visa expired, he has been unemployed, but he has not been granted house arrest leave, so he can return to Canada to renew his visa. According to his lawyers, doing so may make him a target for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

All he can do is wait for the US government to take the next step.



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