Advancing Justice | AAJC and ACLU Seeks Records on Federal Investigations, Prosecutions, and Agency Action Against Scientists

Civil rights groups are seeking records from six federal agencies about their scrutiny of U.S.-based Chinese scientists and researchers
For Immediate Release
Michelle Boykins 202-296-2300, ext. 0144

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (Advancing Justice | AAJC) and the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (together, the "ACLU") filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all records from six federal agencies pertaining to the government’s efforts to scrutinize, investigate, and prosecute U.S.-based scientists and researchers perceived to have connections to China. 

The two civil rights organizations are seeking records from the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Commerce (DOC). For Advancing Justice | AAJC, this information is the crucial link between the actions of the federal agencies and the erroneous prosecutions of scientists of Asian descent, which have raised red flags for us that there have been biased policing and profiling of our communities. 

“In the last two decades, there have been high profile incidents of wrongful prosecutions of  Asian scientists,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Advancing Justice | AAJC. “Given past errors by the FBI, data indicating the disparate treatment of people of Chinese and Asian descent, mass letters sent by NIH to research universities, and recent statements by FBI Director Christopher Wray and the President painting all persons of Chinese descent as spies and suspicious conduct, we have significant concerns about biased law enforcement by these federal agencies.”

The U.S. government has a long history of xenophobia and racism against Asian Americans. At various times in our nation’s history, Asian Americans have borne the brunt of this country’s xenophobia from being made the face of the “yellow peril” to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. Despite being part of the fabric of American society for centuries, Asian immigrants and their descendants are still caught up in the construct of the “perpetual foreigner.” Not only are Asian American communities profiled by our own country as spies and terrorists, with Muslim and South Asian Americans profiled and placed under surveillance, but the xenophobic rhetoric in our political discourse has also created a toxic atmosphere, emboldening those who would act on hate, terrorizing our communities. 

Advancing Justice | AAJC opposes increased efforts to scapegoat and profile Asian Americans and Asian immigrants. The profiling of our communities does not make the United States safer. It serves only to undermine the very values and characteristics that propelled the United States as a global leader in innovation, science, and technology. The records sought by these FOIA requests are urgently needed to ensure that the lives of Asian Americans are not irreparably harmed as a result of biased policing, profiling, and prosecution of our communities.