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'Spy' charge scientists speak out

Updated: 2015-09-17 07:49
By China Daily (China Daily)

'Spy' charge scientists speak out
Sherry Chen and Xi Xiaoxing attend the news conference in Washington on Tuesday. Prosecutors dropped charges of spying for China against Xi last week and against Chen earlier this year.[SAUL LOEB/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE]

Accusations dropped, but Chinese-Americans' cases raise questions about FBI racial profiling

Two Chinese-American scientists wrongly charged with spying spoke out at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday.

Xi Xiaoxing, chair of the physics department at Temple University, Philadelphia, was arrested on May 22 on charges of selling sensitive US defense technology to the Chinese government.

Sherry Chen, sacked from her job as a hydrologist with the US National Weather Service in Ohio, was arrested in October and charged with stealing passwords to download information about America's dams. She was also said to have lied about meeting Chinese officials.

Both have been released, and all the charges dropped.

"My e-mail contains highly complex technological material," Xi said during the conference held at the office of the Arent Fox law firm.

"They didn't even consult any other scientist, and they arrested me. I was shoved into the door frame and they handcuffed me in front of my family," Xi added. "My reputation was damaged and I almost lost my job."

Although they no longer face charges, the trauma continues to haunt them.

"My mother in China is crying all day and I didn't go to the grocery store for one month," 59-year-old Chen said, her voice trembling and tears in her eyes.

"I used to win the National Worker Prize and I spent decades in my job. But I was told by the commerce committee I can't get my job back, even if I was wrongly accused. And I can't afford the defense case."

The financial burden of the legal fees is onerous. "We don't have a final number yet, but it could be over $250,000," Xi said.

Another controversy looms over whether or not the incidents can be seen as racial profiling by the FBI. "If I wasn't Chinese, I might be back at my job," Chen said. "You will see more related arguments during my lawsuit to fight for getting my job back."

Xi said he would continue working with Chinese colleagues because China is the pioneer in many scientific fields and the US government was encouraging him to cooperate with Chinese scientists.

Jeremy Wu, a Chinese-American lawyer, said the incidents could be part of a trend. "If there was only one case, that could be an accident or coincidence, but there are three cases and four individuals falsely charged in similar situations within the last 10 months," he said.

"The loyalty of Asian-Americans toward this country is questioned based on their race and ethnic background. It is not right in a country of freedom and diversity. We are a rule-based country," he added.

Two foundations are to be set up in Xi Xiaoxing and Sherry Chen's names to help Chinese-Americans in similar situations.

"I come from Tsinghua University and I'm an American citizen," a Chinese-American said at the news conference. "I feel strongly the same way as you do. Our voice should be heard."

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