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Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

Lawmakers seek information on targeting Chinese-American scientists as potential spies

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U.S. Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Judy Chu (D-CA) are seeking information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on reports that Chinese-American scientists are being targeted as potential spies.

A recent article in The New York Times reported that the NIH sent 18,000 letters asking administrators who oversee government grants to increase scrutiny of scientists with foreign ties, especially those with connections to China.

In a letter to officials at NIH and the FBI, the lawmakers said prosecutions brought under the Economic Espionage Act have disproportionally targeted innocent scientists with Chinese-sounding names. They cited one study in particular that said that 52 percent of individuals charged under the Act since 2009 have been of Chinese heritage. As it turned out, many of those individuals were innocent and falsely accused. The lawmakers added that defendants of Chinese heritage are more than twice as likely to be acquitted, or have all charges against them dropped, compared to defendants with non-Chinese names.

“While there are undoubtedly authentic and legitimate cases of espionage that should be investigated, these reports have created serious concern that innocent people are being swept up in this initiative,” Chu and Raskin wrote to the NIH and FBI.

Raskin is the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Chu is the Chair of the House Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.