Washington, D.C. (April 27, 2016) — The New York Times reported yesterday that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued new rules to require an extra level of oversight when investigating cases of espionage. These new rules come after several high-profile cases in which Chinese American scientists – including Sherry Chen and Dr. Xiaoxing Xi – were wrongfully accused and arrested for alleged espionage only to have those charges later dropped.
In November 2015, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) and Reps. Ted Lieu (CA-33) and Michael Honda (CA-17), along with 39 other Members of Congress, sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for an independent investigation into these cases. A second letter was sent later that month to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker requesting a fair and judicious review of Ms. Sherry Chen’s case. CAPAC Members also met with Attorney General Lynch to raise their concerns over what appears to be an ongoing pattern and practice of Asian Americans being singled out by federal law enforcement and prosecutors.
Rep. Michael Honda, in his role as the Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, advocated for a change in the behavior of the Justice Department when questioning Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Comey earlier this year about the two accused scientists. Rep. Judy Chu, in her role as a Member of the Judiciary Committee, also questioned FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on these matters.
Reps. Chu, Honda, and Lieu, released the following statements:
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:
“Wrongful accusations of espionage should not be a pattern of practice in our country. The cases of Sherry Chen and Dr. Xiaoxing Xi are appalling. Two prominent scientists, who are U.S. citizens, were publicly humiliated and had their lives turned upside down simply because they were emailing while being Chinese American. Their charges were dropped, but only after their reputations were shattered. Further, their arrests sent a chilling message to other Asian American scientists that they, too, could be next. That is why I welcome the new rules by the Department of Justice as a positive first step in the right direction. These extra levels of scrutiny are clearly necessary to avert other false charges against American citizens. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus will remain vigilant to prevent such wrongful accusations in the future, and we will seek justice for those who are already victims.”
Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus:
“For too long, Americans have been accused of espionage by our government on the basis of their heritage, not any finding of fact,” said Honda. “Today, the Justice Department took a good first step to making certain that never happens again. However, too many have still been hurt by these cases in the past. Along with my colleagues, it is critical for us to make certain that the Department of Justice appoints an independent panel to investigate these potential miscarriages of justice.”
Congressman Ted Lieu (CA-33):
“I am pleased that the Department of Justice has heard the calls of Members of Congress and implemented a policy change to provide critical oversight for national security cases. The pattern of wrongfully arresting and indicting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on flimsy espionage allegations has painted a concerning picture of targeting based on race and national origin, and it is clear that these cases need to be handled differently. I thank Attorney General Lynch for taking action and look forward to being briefed on the changes by the Department of Justice to evaluate whether further steps are needed.”
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and Members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.