USA: Sherry Chen, a Chinese-American scientist employed by the National Weather Service, filed two lawsuits against the US government alleging that she was misdiagnosed and fired.
On Thursday, her lawyers announced a landmark settlement, closing the book on the ten-year saga. According to Chen's attorneys, the $550,000 settlement, plus an additional $1.25 million over ten years, is one of the largest amounts awarded to a single plaintiff by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which regulates the Weather Service.
Chen said in a statement Thursday that "the government's investigation and prosecution of me was discriminatory and unfair."
The conduct of the Commerce Department's Illegal Security Unit, which had a terrible impact on my life and the lives of many other federal employees, is finally being held accountable. This injustice should not happen to anyone else.
The Chen case, first brought up in 2012, was an early example of what later emerged as a growing mistrust of the government and a larger pattern of targeting ethnic Chinese scientists, intensifying US-China competition. Had been.
The Commerce Department accused Chen, a hydrologist, of providing information about US dams to a Chinese official, leading to criminal charges against him. Chen was detained and charged with lying to federal agents and obtaining unauthorized access to federal databases.
The American Civil Liberties Union, a co-counsel for a civil lawsuit filed in 2019 against both the Departments of Justice and Commerce, said the government's unfounded allegations were based on Ms. Chen's use of shared, office-wide passwords to access the database. relevant to his work.
In 2015, after more than 20 members of Congress demanded an investigation into the racial profiling of federal employees, the government dropped its charges against Chen. Chen was initially placed on indefinite leave in 2014, but was fired in March 2016.
In 2018, the Merritt Systems Protection Board, a body that hears complaints from federal employees, determined that the Commerce Department's decision to terminate him was unlawful. Consequently, the department appealed the decision and returned him on indefinite leave.
Chen filed a civil suit in 2019 seeking $5 million in damages. After the dissolution of the Commerce Department unit handling her case, her lawyers added new charges in a new complaint filed in 2021.
The Investigation and Threat Management Service (ITMS) was described in a Senate committee report that year as a "rogue, irresponsible police force" that broke the law and "provided evidence suggesting wrongdoing". without opened frivolous investigations on various employees."
Chen's investigation began before the Justice Department's "China Initiative," which saw a higher number of cases before the trial than the federal average.
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The initiative was launched in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump and apparently focused on combating economic espionage, but the MIT Tech Review found it largely targeted people of Chinese descent.
Justice Department officials announced this year that they would switch to a "comprehensive approach" to combating threats from China, Russia, North Korea and other countries, leading to the closure of the China Initiative program.
According to Chen's lawyers, the NWS' parent organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will also host a meeting with Chen, where she plans to discuss the agency's wrongdoings and the importance of anti-discrimination reforms.
In addition to payment, the Commerce Department will also give Chen a letter acknowledging his extensive government service.
The Merritt Systems Protection Board's investigation into the chain's incorrect termination has also ended because of the settlement.
Michelle Young, one of Chen's lawyers, said that "today, there was a major setback against bigotry and for the rights of Asian-Americans as the government was blamed and held responsible for the devastating damage to an award-winning scientist." Gone. Life."
A network of Asian-Americans related to Chen's case was brought together, and they later mobilized to support those accused of violating China's initiative.
Amid a wave of prejudice against the Asian-American community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Biden's first act as US President in 2021 was to issue a memo condemning Asian racism and provide guidance to the Justice Department. How to process hate crime report.
Examining Chinese-American scientists has a chilling effect. Over 40% of the 184 Chinese national scientists surveyed in a survey conducted by University of Arizona researchers and the Committee of 100, a nonpartisan group of well-known Chinese-Americans, last year said they had considered leaving the US because of Justice Department investigations.
A research project by the advocacy group Asian-American Scholar Forum from December 2021 to March 2022 revealed that 61% of 1,229 Chinese scientists working in the US had expressed a desire to leave.
The same study discovered that 1,415 Chinese scientists working in the US changed their affiliation from American to Chinese institutions in 2021, more than tripling from 2020 and almost 22% higher than in 2011.
Supporters of initiatives like the China Initiative have argued that China spends a lot of money on intellectual property theft both domestically and internationally, that Beijing has planned to dominate key technologies through its Made in China 2025 programme, and that the more liberal US approach to science is extremely vulnerable.
At least six alleged Chinese intelligence officers and associates were named in two other cases of economic espionage brought by the Justice Department last month.
Other scientists are seeking compensation for government wrongdoing. The FBI agent who investigated Chinese-American physicist Xi Xiaoxing for a case that was ultimately dismissed before trial made an appearance in court in September to ask for the reinstatement of his lawsuit against the agent.
When scientists of Chinese or Asian descent are falsely accused of wrongdoing without sufficient evidence or protection, America is harmed, not helped, according to Zhengyu Huang, president of the Committee of 100.
Even after being found not guilty, many people still lose their jobs and financial security, just as Sherry Chen did. We are overjoyed for Sherry and her family that they have been vindicated, but we also realise that there is still much work to be done to defend other Chinese or Asian scientists who are also being attacked.