Representative Lieu Statement on Xi Xiaoxing

September 14, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Ted W. Lieu issued the following statement in response to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement on Friday that all charges against Professor Xi Xiaoxing, an American citizen, have been dropped.

“I call upon the DOJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate and stop what appears to be a pattern of arresting and indicting Americans based on their ethnicity rather than the evidence. There have been multiple cases of Americans—who happen to be of Chinese ethnicity—being arrested and charged for alleged spying or economic espionage, only to have those charges dropped. 

“As set forth in a letter to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch by a coalition of national Asian Pacific American organizations, the cases of Dr. Wen Ho Lee, Sherry Chen, Guoqing Cao, and Shuyi Li highlight overzealous charging, inflammatory rhetoric, and unfounded accusations by federal officials. 

“We now have another example of apparent discriminatory arrest and discriminatory charging by federal officials. About a dozen FBI agents, some with guns drawn, stormed Professor Xi Xiaoxing’s home in May and led him away in handcuffs while his wife and two daughters watched. Federal officials believed Professor Xi shared sensitive and restricted blueprints of a pocket heater with scientists in China. 

“It turns out the blueprints that Professor Xi shared were not for a pocket heater and were not sensitive or restricted. The Department of Justice dropped all charges last Friday.

“Professor Xi’s lawyer, a former federal prosecutor, said ‘the authorities saw emails to scientists in China and assumed the worst. But … the emails represented the kind of international academic collaboration that governments and universities encourage.’ The former federal prosecutor also stated that if Professor Xi ‘was Canadian-American or French-American, or he was from the U.K., would this have ever even got on the government’s radar? I don’t think so.’[1] 

 “On May 21, 2015, twenty-two Members of Congress wrote a letter to Attorney General Lynch asking her to investigate, in part, ‘whether there is any written or unwritten policy, program, pattern or practice of race (or other civil rights classifications such as religion, gender and national origin) being used by federal agencies in targeting federal employees for arrest, surveillance, security clearance denials or other adverse actions.’ 

“The perfunctory response from the DOJ was illuminating for what it did not say. The DOJ wrote:  ‘No policy exists for using race or any other civil rights classification to “target federal employees for arrest, surveillance, security clearance denials or other adverse actions,” or for any other purpose.’ The DOJ’s letter did not address whether there was a pattern or practice of discriminatory targeting based on race, ethnicity or other civil rights classifications. 

“I will be sending a second letter requesting that DOJ investigate what appears to now be a pattern and practice of some federal prosecutors indicting Americans based primarily on race or ethnicity.  I will also request that the FBI investigate whether some of its agents are engaging in a pattern or practice of arresting Americans based primarily on race or ethnicity (or other civil rights classifications).

“If it was just one case in which federal officials arrest and indict an American for spying or espionage and then drop all charges, perhaps that can be called a mistake.  But when it is multiple cases—all linked by the same fact that the Americans happened to be of Chinese ethnicity—then we have a constitutional and civil rights problem. Otherwise innocent actions do not become nefarious simply because the Americans taking those actions happened to have ethnic surnames. I look forward to working with the DOJ and the FBI to fix this disturbing problem.”

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[1] Matt Apuzzo, “U.S. Drops Charges That Professor Shared Technology With China,” New York Times, Sept. 11, 2015.