More than a dozen Democratic lawmakers have called on congressional leadership to halt a potential restoration of the China Initiative, a controversial Trump-era program that once led to accusations of racial profiling against Asian scientists in the United States.
In a letter shared with NBC News on Monday, the group of lawmakers urged House and Senate leadership to remove language written by GOP lawmakers on the main House spending bill that calls for reactivating the program. The China Initiative, created to stop China from stealing scientific and technological secrets, ended in 2022 after major concerns from the academic community about discrimination and targeting of scientists of Asian descent.
Democratic lawmakers took issue with the language used in the bill’s explanatory materials for HR 5893. Materials accompanying the legislation, further explaining its rationale, called the earlier decision to end the initiative “deeply irresponsible.” Behind the materials, Republican lawmakers on the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee also called on the Justice Department’s Department of Homeland Security to rebuild the office with a similar mission. In another part of the materials, the MPs called the end of the program “senseless”.
“This decision is an example of the weakness of the Justice Department, which is more concerned with being politically correct than protecting Americans, and stands in stark contrast to the actions of other federal agencies that have taken steps to recognize the long-term emergency threat posed by China.” United States of America,” the explanatory materials say.
“The budget is an expression of our priorities and values,” said the letter, led by Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. “Relaunching the China Initiative would be both a misallocation of resources and a rollback of civil rights.”
And Meng warned that the relaunch of the China Initiative could put a target on the backs of Asian Americans.
“The China Initiative was carried out by questioning the loyalty of innocent Asian Americans and reinforcing negative and harmful stereotypes,” he said. “We can’t go back to that.”
A group of lawmakers wrote in a letter Monday that they objected to the description of the China Initiative in explanatory materials and called for language around restarting the program to be struck. They argued that the program had serious consequences for the Asian American community and lacked transparency from the DOJ.
“This prosecutorial initiative was a blunt instrument used against anyone with ‘any connection to China,'” the letter said. “An unacceptably high number of the above cases resulted in dismissals, dismissals and acquittals because prosecutors could not prove the allegations.”
Several Asian American scholars and scientists have faced trumped-up espionage charges initiated by the Trump era. One such scientist, hydrologist Sherry Chen, has paid more than $1.5 million in damages for being wrongfully prosecuted and fired from the National Weather Service after her arrest in 2014. January 2022, but has since recused himself from any federally funded research over concerns of racial profiling.
Many others expressed similar fears. More 50% According to a 2021 study by the nonprofit Committee of 100, scientists of Chinese descent in the United States “feel considerable fear and/or anxiety” that they are now under government surveillance.
In a 2022 speech at George Mason University, Matthew Olsen, The head of the DOJ’s Homeland Security Division spoke about the end of the China Initiative, addressing previous concerns about discrimination, racial profiling and its impact on the research community.
“While I am aware of the evolving, significant threat posed by the Chinese government, I have come to the conclusion that this initiative is not the right approach,” he said.
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