A big deal for a Chinese-American scientist won’t end wrongful prosecutions

Chen declined a request for an interview from the MIT Technology Review but said through her attorney that she is “currently thinking it through”. [her] next step.” But her friend is Gang Chen, an MIT scientist who has also false accusations spy for China (and unrelated to Sherry Chen), tells us he feels her pain.

“Despite the win, it’s important to remember that this is a decade in Sherry’s life,” said Gang Chen. “I reflect on the years that so many people have lost, myself included, and the lasting trauma to those directly affected and their families. Victory, such as this, cannot fully make up for what is lost.”

Second, Sherry Chen’s case is unusual—in that her accusers have committed many well-documented wrongdoings. One of the the biggest criticism of the China Initiative is a law enforcement agency that suspects activities that certain ethnic groups engage in on a daily basis, such as traveling back home. It is often difficult to prove racial prejudice in court. But in Chen’s case, the Threat Management and Investigation Service (ITMS), an internal security unit at the Commerce Department that began investigating Chen in 2012, was found to be particularly blatant in racial profiling activities.

Report for 2021 from the Senate Commerce Committee revealed that ITMS “runs ethnic surnames through a secure database,” targeted an employee “purely because of her ethnic Chinese background,” and “targeted widely consume departments with a relatively high percentage of Asian-American employees”. This led to an internal investigation into the ITMS and the unit was decommissioned in September 2021.

Obviously, not all government malpractices were revealed in the Senate’s heavyweight reports, and more were certainly concealed. “You rarely get such a smoke gun when solving a crime,” said Frank Wu, an attorney, activist and president of Queens College at City University of New York. (Wu consulted on Chen’s case but never acted as her attorney.)

And even though Chen won her settlement and DOJ end the China Initiative, that is not to say that the implicit bias that caused such discriminatory prosecutions has disappeared. It could have become more secret.

In the end, Chen’s victory doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier for others in her situation to demand justice. Yes, Chen’s settlement is the first of its kind against a Chinese-American scientist to be falsely accused, and people certainly hope it sets a precedent. But the reality may not be so simple.

Margaret Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall University who focuses on criminal justice and human rights, said: “I have not seen the settlement agreement, but I fully expect that the agreement is articulated. that this applies specifically to this particular case. “I am confident that the government has been careful to avoid any indication that it is setting a broader precedent.” That means other scholars fighting their own wrongful prosecution cases cannot point to Chen’s case and argue that the same decision should apply.

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