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Asian Americans Support Xi Family Lawsuit Over False Spying Charges

July 13, 2017 News

Call for End to Xenophobic Targeting on the Pretext of National Security

Contact: Christina So, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, 415-848-7728

San Francisco – Asian Americans in California and across the country are joining together in support of the family of Professor Xiaoxing Xi, a renowned American scientist and the former chair of the physics department at Temple University who was falsely accused of spying for China. This week, family members of Professor Xi have joined his lawsuit against the FBI and government for their unlawful actions. Asian Americans are calling for an end to the growing numbers of wrongful prosecutions against American scientists of Asian descent who are being targeted as threats to national security because of their race and ethnicity.

For decades, Asian Americans have been seeking an end to the scapegoating of our communities, whether involving the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, to targeting and surveillance of Chinese Americans during the McCarthy era, to the post-9/11 profiling of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities who are broadly labeled as national security threats.

“The rise of China and the competition and tension between China and the U.S. have made Chinese Americans, especially those in science and engineering, a convenient target of suspicion and overzealous, racially motivated surveillance and prosecution,” states Professor Ling-chi Wang of U.C. Berkeley, a specialist in Chinese American affairs.

In Professor Xi’s case, the U.S. Department of Justice falsely arrested and charged him in 2015 with sharing sensitive U.S. technology with scientists in China. Professor Xi had done no such thing. The government eventually dropped all charges against him months later.

The Xi family is suing the government for, among other things, malicious prosecution and for violating the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution with illegal searches and seizures of their property, including unlawful searches pursuant to FISA orders. The complaint alleges that the government was motivated because of Professor Xi’s race and national origin and violated his right to equal protection of the law under the Fifth Amendment. In the complaint, Professor Xi and his family allege 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.

Among the other recent prominent cases that the FBI has dropped are those of Sherry Chen, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service, Guoqing Cao and Shuyu Li, two Eli Lilly research scientists. More than 40 members of Congress, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and numerous civil rights and community organizations called for an independent investigation into whether there was undue reliance on race, ethnicity, or national origin in these cases.

“Professor Xi’s prosecution is indeed 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, no apology and no accountability,” adds Vincent Pan, Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action.

“The government has still provided no investigation or explanation for its botched prosecutions,” says Aarti Kohli, Executive Director at Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. “There is an alarming trend occurring here that fits into a broader history of racial and religious profiling in the name of national security.”

Eighteen years ago, the FBI falsely accused Chinese American scientist Wen Ho Lee of stealing American nuclear secrets for China and locked him in solitary confinement for 9 months. California Assemblymember Phil Ting, who was a community organizer working with many concerned citizens to stop the racial hysteria that targeted Wen Ho Lee, states: “It is in the interest of every American to hold the FBI and federal government accountable for their harmful practices that violate the rights and civil liberties of ordinary persons.”

“The FBI’s targeting of the Xi family and other Chinese Americans is ineffective and runs counter to the values we espouse. These members of our communities are being wrongfully targeted based on the race and national origin. American Muslims stand with the Xi family and other Asian American scientists who are being scapegoated,” states Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area.

“Using fear and national security as pretexts to intern 120,000 Japanese Americans stands as a shameful and unconstitutional episode of America’s history that must not be repeated today, whether to ban Muslims from the US, or to target Asian American scientists as potential spies,” says author and activist Helen Zia, who wrote about the persecution of and FBI misdeeds against of American nuclear physicist Wen Ho Lee.

“In supporting the Xi family lawsuit, Asian Americans aim to unite not only our community, but to join with others to eradicate the environment of hate and fear that the practice of state xenophobic targeting fosters,” states Pam Tau Lee, chairperson of the Chinese Progressive Association.

Professor Xi and his family are represented by David Rudovsky, Jonathan Feinberg and Susan Lin of the firm Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP, 215-925-4400.

For more information about the targeting of Chinese Americans and Asian Americans in the name of national security, or for a list of experts on this topic, contact Christina So at 415-848-7728.


Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus is the nation’s oldest legal organization defending the civil rights of Asians and Pacific Islanders, particularly low-income, immigrant and underserved communities. Learn more at advancingjustice-alc.org

Asian Law Caucus: https://www.advancingjustice-a...

Chinese for Affirmative Action: http://www.caasf.org/

Chinese Progressive Association: http://cpasf.org/

Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area: https://ca.cair.com/sfba/