LOS ANGELES – Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), the largest Asian civil rights organization in the U.S. and an affiliation of five civil rights organizations, Wednesday stated that it stands by a Chinese American professor who has been wrongly charged by the FBI in his quest for justice.
Renowned American scientist and Temple University Professor Xiaoxing Xi has brought a lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia against the FBI agents who conducted the investigation against him.
Professor Xi seeks to hold the agents accountable, who are responsible for his unlawful prosecution, and to call attention to the fact that the government has unfairly targeted Chinese American scientists for merely doing their jobs.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice unjustly arrested and charged Professor Xi for allegedly sharing sensitive U.S. technology with China. The government abruptly dropped all its charges months later when it became clear that they were unwarranted and inaccurate. In reality, the federal government had sought to criminalize Professor Xi for routine academic research that was not secret or unlawful in any way, according to AAAJ.
In his complaint, Professor Xi alleges that the agents knew, or recklessly disregarded, that he had never sent sensitive information to colleagues in China, yet still persisted in initiating the prosecution against him. As a result, Professor Xi was threatened with a conviction that could have resulted in up to 80 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $1 million.
According to AAAJ, Professor Xi’s prosecution is part of a disturbing string of recent cases in which Chinese Americans have been accused by the federal government of spying for China, only to have those charges later dropped with no explanation; recent prominent cases include those of Sherry Chen, Guoqing Cao, and Shuyu Li.
In 2016, Advancing Justice launched the “Scientists, Not Spies” campaign in support of Professor Xi and other wrongfully accused Chinese American scientists, and continues to educate on and advocate against discrimination and racial profiling of Chinese Americans.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice also joined over 40 members of Congress, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and numerous civil rights and community organizations to call for an independent investigation into whether there was undue reliance on race, ethnicity, or national origin in these cases.
From the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII to targeting and surveillance of Chinese Americans during the McCarthy era and the post-9/11 profiling of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian people, communities have continued to face unjust surveillance and targeting by law enforcement as national security threats.
Over 15 years ago, Taiwanese American scientist Wen Ho Lee was falsely accused of spying for China and locked in solitary confinement for 9 months. In his case, the federal judge presiding over the case issued an apology to Lee and condemned the government’s prosecutorial tactics.
“With the rising anti-immigrant rhetoric and continued profiling of communities of color as national security concerns – notably the Asian American, Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities – we will continue to fight discriminatory actions and policies. Any unjust government surveillance or law enforcement targeting of our communities based on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion should expect our resistance,” AAAJ said in a statement.