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Protesters tell of harm from biased project

By YIFAN XU in Washington | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-01-15 10:13
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Protesters hold photos of eight scientists who are victim of China Initiative in front of the Department of Justice building in Washington on Wednesday. [Photo by YIFAN XU/for]

Professors urge US to end 'China Initiative' as it creates climate of fear

The leader of a protest against the government's so-called China Initiative has called for the return of a "normal atmosphere" for Chinese scientists working in the United States.

Haipei Shue, president of the United Chinese Americans and organizer of the protest, marched along with scores of other people outside the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building on Wednesday.

Shue told China Daily that many innocent Chinese American scientists have been put in a position of suspicion because of the so-called initiative started under former president Donald Trump. Shue said the measure is "hurting the science, hurting Chinese American scientists and hurting the progress of this country".

"We demand the federal government to end the 'China Initiative' as soon as possible and to restore the normal atmosphere for the Chinese American scientists to get back to do their research rather than fear for their future," Shue said.

The protesters, many of whom were Chinese Americans, opposed what they said is racial profiling, along with selective, overzealous prosecution and mistreatment of those scientists.

They presented photos of eight scientists who they said the "China Initiative" has improperly prosecuted in recent years, including seven Chinese American scientists and one Egyptian American scientist. They chanted "End China Initiative", "Stop profiling Chinese American scientists", "We are scientists, not a spy" and "Science is global" during the protest.

The controversial program was launched by the US Department of Justice in 2018 to probe trade secret theft and economic espionage activities considered as threats to US national security.

The program now "appears to be an umbrella term for cases with almost any connection to China", according to an investigation published in December by MIT Technology Review.

"What is more, the climate of fear created by the prosecutions has already pushed some talented scientists to leave the United States and made it more difficult for others to enter or stay. It endangered America's ability to attract new talent in science and technology from China and worldwide," said the article.

Chao Wu, a scientist who participated in the protest, told the media that it is wrong for the federal government to take such action against Chinese scientists.

"The (charges against) Chinese scientists innocently implicated were eventually dismissed, but their careers and families have been significantly harmed. If the Chinese community wants to protect their rights, they must be brave enough to express themselves in a compliant manner, and only then will our voices be heard by the whole community," Wu said.

'Fundamentally wrong'

One of the protesters, a business owner named Zhao who did not disclose his full name, told China Daily that the program is "fundamentally wrong and not just about the scientists". "The US government and DOJ should serve and protect rather than scare and persecute innocent people," he said.

Stan Tsai, president of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association for the Greater DC Chapter, said the program is not good for China, the US and the world.

"Science is global and should benefit the world," Tsai said. "By executing the China Initiative, the US is hindering the development of science and hurting the cooperation between China and the US, and the joint effort to fight the pandemic."

After the protest, an online news conference for the victims and witnesses to the "China Initiative" was also hosted by the UCA, highlighting personal stories, suffering and mistreatment of the program's targets at the hands of federal law enforcement.

At the conference, US Representative Judy Chu called the "China Initiative an exercise in racial profiling", stressing that "numbers simply do not justify this program".

"After three years of investigations, over 150 defendants, at least 77 cases, the 'China Initiative' has just prosecuted, just one single conviction in a court of law," Chu said. "This dismal record proves that the 'China Initiative' is flawed. The vast majority of the people investigated have been Chinese academics, who have had the charges dropped without explanation."

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