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Falsely accused scientists speak out

Updated: 2015-09-16 10:50

Falsely accused scientists speak out

Xiaoxing Xi, professor at Temple University, speaks at a press conference in Washington on Tuesday. [Photo provided for chinadaily.com.cn]

Two wrongly charged Chinese-American scientists delivered emotional remarks at a press conference held in Arent Fox law firm in Washington on Tuesday. 

Xiaoxing Xi, a Temple University professor, was arrested on May 22 on charges of selling sensitive US defense technology to the Chinese government.

Sherry Chen, a hydrologist with the US National Weather Service in Ohio, was arrested last October accused of stealing passwords to download information about America's dams and lying about meeting Chinese officials.  

Both have been released, charges dropped.

"My email contains highly complex technological material," Xiaoxing said. "They didn't even consult any other scientist, and they arrested me." 

"I was shoved in the doorframe and they handcuffed me in front of family," Xiaoxing said at the press conference. "My reputation was damaged and I almost lost my job."

Although charges against both have been dropped, the trauma and financial burden generated by the ordeals continue to haunt them.

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

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

"I used to win the National Worker Prize and I spent decades on 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," Chen 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."

Xiaoxing said he would continue working with his Chinese colleagues because China is the pioneer in many scientific fields and the US government was actually 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 ten months," he said.

"The loyalty of Asian Americans towards 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. 

Voices from the Chinese-American community have been raised since the incidents happened. Two foundations will be set up under the names of Xiaoxing Xi and Sherry Chen to help Chinese Americans get out of the similar situations with the help of the Committee of 100, an organization committed to protecting the welfare of Chinese Americans. 

"I come from Tsinghua University and I'm an American citizen," a Chinese American commented at the press conference. "I feel strongly the same way as you do. Our voice should be heard. I'm here to support you."


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