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People's Daily Online

Chinese American scientist clears her name after false charges of espionage

People's Daily Online

(People's Daily Online) 16:59, April 27, 2018

Three and a half years after her wrongful arrest, Sherry Chen, a Chinese-American scientist who is the"victim of gross injustice," has finally restored her name and received compensation.

Chen, a hydrologist whose work predicting floods saved American lives, was fired from her position at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio after she was arrested at her workplace in 2014, later being prosecuted on federal charges including theft of government property and accessing a U.S. government database illegally. Though the charges against her were dropped in 2015, she was still left unemployed and with exorbitant legal bills.

"My life was turned upside down ... I'm a dedicated worker. I didn't do anything wrong and I love my job," Chen told the CBS television network during an interview in 2016.

"Ms. Chen asserts that she is the 'victim of gross injustice.' After reviewing the evidence and testimony in this matter I believe Ms. Chen's assertion is correct," said Chief Administrative Judge Michele Schroeder, of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), an administrative system that protects public employees.

According to the 118-page statement released by MSPB on April 23, a decision was issued that ordered Chen be returned to her work on behalf of the public and back paid for work that she had missed.

Though Chen has finally won her lengthy appeal, other Chinese-American scientists who have suffered similar injustice are yet to receive a proper apology and compensation. Xi Xiaoxing, a Chinese-born American physicist who was arrested by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2015 on charges of having sent restricted American technology to China but was later completely cleared, has not received compensation in any form at time of press.

Following China's scientific and technological boom in recent years, espionage investigation targeting scientists with a Chinese background has risen in the US, while "Chinese intellectual infringement" has somehow been hyped up by certain politicians. In February, FBI Director Christopher Wray made controversial remarks against Chinese academics, professors, scientists and students working and studying in the US, saying that they may be "covertly gathering intelligence for the Chinese government."

Such biased accusations have led to the unfair treatment of Chinese Americans. According to research conducted by Andrew Kim of the South Texas College of Law in 2017, out of 136 charges under the U.S. Economic Espionage Act (EEA) between 1997 and 2015, the percentage of people with Chinese heritage charged has tripled since 2009 to 52%, while in half of cases, the alleged beneficiary of espionage was an American entity while a third of cases involved a Chinese beneficiary.

The research further noted that the average sentence for defendants with Western names was 11 months. That's compared to 25 months for Chinese defendants and 22 months for all Asian defendants.

Frank Y. Wu, chairman of the Committee of 100, a non-partisan organization that promotes Chinese Americans' legal rights, noted in a press release that in every field from the arts to the sciences, business to entertainment, politics to sports, Chinese Americans are loyal and hard-working citizens, no different to their neighbors.

"Chen and Xi have been exonerated in full. There was no basis for any suspicion of them – other than, apparently, the color of their skin," noted Wu, who added that the sheer number and case similarities among these prosecutions have created an apparent pattern and practice of selective and discriminatory treatment that demands greater transparency and accountability. Monitoring, oversight, and safeguards are needed.

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