After years of struggle, Sherry Chen, a Chinese American painter, has won US$1.8 million in a settlement of two lawsuits against the US government for wrongful prosecution and dismissal of her work. at the National Weather Service. Analysts see this as a major victory for researchers of Chinese heritage who have been caught up in the US battle to protect the country’s laboratories and businesses from Chinese espionage. Civil rights groups and others have argued that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has pursued cases despite a lack of evidence, that Chinese scientists were wrongly targeted, and that many feared they are under observation.
“The settlement sends a clear message: Discrimination and discrimination will not be tolerated, and the government will be held accountable,” said Ashley Gorski, a senior attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union and part of the legal team. and Chen.
‘I’ve been missing for two years’: US scientist falsely accused of concealing ties to China.
The DoJ did not respond Environmentrequest for information.
Chen was arrested in 2014 four years before former US president Donald Trump launched the China Initiative, which intensified the government’s pursuit of researchers believed to be in hiding. their relationship with China. But his case still points to the program’s assumptions — and flaws — investigators say. Of the 23 people who tried for research-rights under the China Initiative, according to the analysis of MIT Technology Review, Three were acquitted of some or all charges, eight had charges later dropped due to lack of evidence, and one case was settled with the government. This program has been shut down by the administration of President Joe Biden.
Chen’s victory should inspire other targeted scientists to fight for justice and compensation, said Anming Hu, a nanotechnology researcher at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Hu was accused of concealing ties to China in 2020 and was under house arrest for two years before being acquitted of all charges.
“It is a message that we should not remain silent, we have the right to hold our government accountable for abuse of power,” Hu said.
Chen was born in China but moved to the United States, eventually becoming a citizen. He began working for the National Weather Service in March 2007, developing models for predicting runoff on the Ohio River and its tributaries. In October 2014, he was arrested in front of his colleagues and accused of giving false information to government investigators and extracting data from a government database related to a visit to the visit family in China two years ago. A month after his arrest, he was suspended without pay. Chen argued that he had only gone public, to help a former friend.
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In the end, the DoJ dropped the criminal charges because of the weakness of his case. However, Chen was fired from his job in 2016. He filed a discrimination complaint with the Department of Commerce (DoC), under the National Weather Service, but it was rejected. However, on appeal, a judge found that he was “adversely affected” by the prosecution and his dismissal. In 2019, Chen filed a civil lawsuit against the DoJ for wrongful prosecution and seeking damages. And in November 2021, Chen filed a complaint against the DoC for its illegal investigation and arrest.
Last week’s ruling will decide both lawsuits. Chen will now retire, his lawyers said Environment.
As part of the settlement, the DoC will meet with Chen to hear his views on wrongdoing in the industry and on antitrust reforms. The DoC also sent a letter to Chen detailing his achievements as a government water inspector.
“The Commerce Department has finally taken responsibility for its wrongdoings,” Chen said in a statement. The DoC did not respond Environmentrequest for information.
‘His resurrection is our resurrection’
Other scientists who have been falsely arrested by the US government are also fighting for accountability. Xiaoxing Xi, a physicist at the University of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was arrested at gunpoint in front of his family by the DoJ in 2015. He was accused of leaking information to scientists in China. for prevention technologies. But Xi said his letter to the scientists was a direct scientific cooperation and the information was not binding. The DoJ eventually issued the charges. Xi filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government and federal prosecutors over his case, seeking damages for the damage he suffered during his arrest. But a judge dismissed most of his claims in March of last year. He is appealing that decision — a decision is not expected until later this year or early next year, according to his lawyers.
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Hu’s fight against the US government is different. President Joe Biden nominated Casey Arrowood, the lead prosecutor in Hu’s case, to the position of U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Hu is trying to block the nomination, arguing that Arrowood cannot be trusted to apply the law fairly and accurately, having prosecuted Hu despite flimsy evidence.
“Responsibility can be met in different ways,” Hu said.
The question now is whether others will come forward to demand an apology or compensation from the government.
According to Frank Wu, a legal expert for the China Initiative and the president of Queens College at the City University of New York, Chen’s victory will give researchers of Chinese heritage hope to follow suit. dialogue results in a diverse democracy. “Sherry Chen has always been innocent. Now she has been vindicated. In the end, her vindication is our vindication,” he said. (Wu gave Chen some free legal advice on his case.)
Gang Chen, an engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, was arrested before his family under the China Initiative in January 2021, but the DoJ released the charges earlier this year. He says that Sherry Chen’s decision is a great achievement and a historic one, but he urges the government to move forward with the public’s confession of its mistakes.
“This is the first step towards some kind of real accountability,” he said. “These compliments mean a lot to us,” he said.