If Not A Spy, Give Back Her Job – Civil Rights Groups Support Sherry Chen To Seek Justice

LOS ANGELES – Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), the largest Asian American civil rights organization in the U.S., Thursday issued a statement to support Sherry (Xiafen) Chen, a Chinese American scientist who worked for the U.S. National Weather Service and was falsely accused of spying for China, to seek justice and get back her job.

Chen was prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014. After being painted as a national security threat and having her life turned upside down, all the charges against her were suddenly dropped. She received no explanation or apology. Instead, the government fired her from her job.

The federal government’s wrongful prosecution against Chen left her financially drained from legal fees and without her job and livelihood. Sherry Chen deserves to be made whole after the government’s reckless actions, the statement said. 

According to the statement, Chen’s case is one in a string of cases where Chinese Americans were wrongfully accused of espionage, including Xiaoxing Xi, Guoqing Cao, and Shuyu Li. The continued lack of transparency or accountability from the federal government for criminalizing, surveilling and infringing on the rights of these individuals is unacceptable.

Additionally, these cases fit in a concerning historical trend of the U.S. government unfairly targeting Chinese Americans as threats, from FBI targeting of Chinese Americans during the McCarthy era to the prosecution and solitary confinement of Wen Ho Lee, the statement said. 

Since Chen’s case was dropped in May 2015, we have called for an independent investigation into her case and others, provided a “Know Your Rights” guide to educate individuals who could be similarly targeted by law enforcement, and launched a “Scientists Not Spies” campaign to call for government accountability. 

“With the rising anti-immigrant rhetoric and continued profiling of communities of Color as national security concerns – notably the Asian American and 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,” the statement said. 

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