United Chinese Americans (UCA) Raises Concerns For Chinese American Scientists as Collateral Damage in the Crossfire Between the United States and China Due to Deteriorating Relations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 25, 2019.  The United Chinese Americans (UCA), www.ucausa.org, expresses grave concern for Chinese American scientists, who have been made to feel increased scrutiny and increasing suspicion of their loyalties based on their ethnic background.

Last week’s news reports on what is likely the first wave of a crack down targeting primarily Chinese American scientists at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston are unsettling, because of the manner in which the investigations were carried out, and the fear they have generated. No scientist has been charged with a federal crime. Yet, reportedly, at least 10 scientists have retired, resigned, been fired or placed on administrative leave, with more parties affected. Fifty-five other NIH-funded institutions are currently carrying out similar investigations in response to U.S. government concerns. UCA is closely monitoring these developments.

More broadly, the sharp deterioration in U.S.-China relations of recent years has endangered academic freedom in American universities and research institutions as well as scientific exchanges between the two countries. At the same time, tighter scrutiny and growing distrust of Chinese Americans have had a profoundly adverse effect on this community, who historically has suffered profoundly from the notorious Chinese Exclusion Act and Red Scare. Once again, Chinese American scientists are caught in the crossfires between the two global powers, becoming collateral damage as a result of the charged atmosphere.

Chinese American scientists, who have made tremendous contribution to America’s scientific progress and technical prowess, are increasingly being questioned, investigated, suspended and even prosecuted. To avoid suspicion or to be able to continue their work, some scholars with Chinese background or ties have been forced to change the direction of their research or the nature of their grant application, or to reduce or end reciprocal scientific collaboration with China.

But the vast majority of Chinese American scientists are law-abiding. Some who have been prosecuted with espionage related charges have turned out to be totally innocent. But to this day, their reputations, careers and lives remain in tatters. In many other cases, people have had multiple felony charges leveled against them but at the end, have been convicted of much lessor offenses, e.g., mishandling of data. Ever since 1996, altogether fewer than 200 defendants—about 31% of them or 58 individuals being Chinese nationals or Chinese Americans—have been charged, not all convicted, under the Economic Espionage Act. Of those, most were motivated by personal financial gains, not economic espionage carried out in collaboration with a foreign power or with the intent to benefit a foreign government.

Let’s be clear: American interests and national security, unquestionably, must be protected. Where a few wrongdoers have acted with intentional malice toward our nation, UCA condemns such behavior in the strongest terms and supports vigorous prosecution of them according to the law.

To address the current situation, UCA makes the following five appeals:

  • We call on the U.S. higher education and scientific communities to continue to uphold and strengthen scientific collaborations around the world so they may continue to benefit all mankind. We salute the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the University of California at Davis for their efforts to uphold these principles and ideals as well as for their civil rights concerns for their faculty members and students, and call on more institutions to follow their example.
  • We call on Chinese American scientists to continue to carry on the indispensable role they have played in maintaining America’s lead position in scientific research and global competitiveness. To this end, we fully endorse the strengthening of compliance efforts and ethical standards guiding scientific research and collaboration. We call on Chinese American scientists—indeed all scientists—to adhere strictly to all applicable laws, regulations and practices, and to cooperate in reporting any breaches to appropriate authorities.
  • We call on Chinese American scientists – indeed, all Chinese Americans – to continue to strengthen U.S.-China people-to-people relations through scientific exchanges and educational efforts rather than retreating. An adversarial U.S.-China relationship is harmful to Chinese Americans, to the United States and China, and to the future of the world. Chinese Americans have a unique role to play as communicators, bridge builders and messengers of peace between the two peoples.
  • We call on the Chinese government to earnestly protect U.S. intellectual property rights, as American scientists participate in its talent programs and other exchanges, and vigorously strengthen the standardization and transparency of those programs. The Chinese government should also improve its supervision and management of such programs, including sub-national ones, toughen two-way compliance requirements and enhance training to reduce or eliminate doubts and concerns other countries may have about such programs.
  • Finally, we call on U.S. law enforcement agencies to strengthen internal training and safeguards to reduce implicit bias and discrimination, to enhance communication with Chinese American communities and to ensure that the freedom and civil rights of all Chinese Americans are rigorously protected.

The United Chinese Americans (UCA) stands at the forefront of safeguarding the rights and interests of Chinese Americans. We will continue to conduct legal awareness education in the Chinese American community, to promote dialogue and communication between the Chinese American community and the FBI, the Justice Department and other government agencies so that Chinese American scientists may lead normal, peaceful and productive lives.

UCA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose members across the nation comprise Chinese American immigrants dedicated to contributing to and participating in the full civic life of American society.

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3 Replies to “UCA Raises Concerns For Chinese American Scientists as Collateral Damage”

  1. It’s very well written and also very timely! It’s very important to stop any possible discrimination towards Chinese American at this sensitive time, when US -Sino relationship is in its most intensive status since 1989.
    It also reminds our Chinese American to obey the law and to be compliance with whatever their working environment ‘s rules, meaning to be a good citizen of US.
    We also realize to have an organization like UCA is utterly important . So proud of your work!

  2. Thank you for speaking out on behalf of the Chinese American community. The culture of the Chinese people is very much about humbleness, endurance and tolerance. It is said, “Unless a rock falls on your own toes, don’t make a noise”. Not sure if this attitude is helpful at this time when the anti-immigrant mood is on the rise. It seems every immigrant group has been attacked, demonized, and labeled as something, and to be blamed for the actual problems of the U.S.

    But this does not mean there was no wrong-doing from the China side. Whenever there is a conflict, each side needs to take a pro-active role looking at what could have been done better and what can be improved. Chinese Americans who work in the STEM field need to be extra vigilant and take precautions as far as rules and regulations on intellectual properties are concerned. Institutions and organizations also need to take responsibilities in educating staff and faculty, and clarify such rules and regulations, assisting in the process rather than taking those innocents as scapegoats. Transparency and fairness are the key.

    In addition, there is clearly a cultural difference in the way intellectual properties are regarded. This difference has a lot to do with how people lived for thousands of years and treat properties in each culture and tradition. In the East, people are used to eating from one big pot, multi-generation families and neighbors live together, and share the land together. Sharing is a very important mindset in the East, as a matter of fact, required for survival when there is a high population density and scarcity of resources. The concept of intellectual property virtually did not exist in the Chinese and Eastern cultural until it was introduced in recent decades by the West. To reinforce this rule takes effort, and requires continuous education of the people and change of the mindset. Sharing and clear-cut ownship are two sides of one coin which need to be balanced and carefully considered especially when there is a cultural and perception difference. In science, this is even more important considering in today’s world, most of the scientific breakthroughs are made by team work and collaborating, rather than by individual effort. The question of how to share the information to promote collaboration at the same time protect intellectual properties is at the core of this conflict.

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