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It's about time scientist Sherry Chen got her job back

China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-03-16 10:55

Xiafen "Sherry" Chen still wants her job back, and rightly so. The 61-year-old Ohio scientist was arrested by federal agents two years ago, wrongly accused of spying for China and fired from her job at the National Weather Service.

Authorities said she used a stolen password to download information about dams in the US and met with a high-ranking Chinese official, lying about it to federal investigators.

One week before the case was scheduled to go to trial, the feds dropped all charges without explanation.

But she still hasn't gotten her job back.

Her wrongful-termination case was to be reviewed in a federal court in Cincinnati on Tuesday and Wednesday. Supporters flocked to her side from as far away as California.

"It is wrong," one supporter told a local TV news reporter. "Sherry Chen is a loyal American citizen for 20 years. She was educated in the US and she is an American citizen just like us. We are all immigrants."

"Today it can happen to Sherry Chen, tomorrow it can happen to me," said another.

Chen told reporters: "I am really, really grateful. My life is turned upside down twice. I really lost everything."

As her legal bills continue to mount, advocacy groups have taken up her cause.

The Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus issued a statement Tuesday: "After being painted as a national security threat and having her life turned upside down, all the charges against her were suddenly dropped. She received no explanation or apology. Instead, the government fired her from her job."

Chen, who worked for the weather service as a hydrologist and won an award for her work in 2011, was arrested after a visit to China to see family and friends, according to Michele Young, a onetime political candidate who organized the rally for Chen on Tuesday.

Young said that Chen did share some data with a Chinese associate, but it was public information, and she had her supervisor's permission.

"She was not treated as one of us," said George Weigang, an engineer who was also at the rally. "She was treated as a different citizen. She lost everything because of nothing."

Weigang also said that the demonstration, with so many turning out, was something of a rarity for the Asian-American community, and it was a good feeling to see everyone coming together.

The Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus has been monitoring other similar cases, where three other Chinese people were arrested, only to have the charges later dropped without explanation.

"The continued lack of transparency or accountability from the federal government for criminalizing, surveilling and infringing on the rights of these individuals is unacceptable," the caucus said.

The cases fit into a "concerning historical trend of the US government unfairly targeting Chinese Americans as threats, from FBI targeting of Chinese Americans during the McCarthy era to the prosecution and solitary confinement of Wen Ho Lee."

The caucus has published a Know Your Rights guide to educate Asian Americans and started a Scientists Not Spies advocacy campaign to call for government accountability.

Xiaojie Shau Zavon, treasurer of the National Council of Chinese Americans and co-organizer of the rally, said, "We support Sherry Chen because we don't want such a pattern of wrongly investigating and prosecuting innocent Americans based on their race, ethnicity and national origin."

The Committee of 100 also supports Chen's appeal of wrongful termination of employment by the US Department of Commerce and is urging people to take a stand "in the time-honored American tradition of speaking out against injustice and discrimination".

"Chen is fighting for her equal rights to be treated fairly and justly. She hopes only to be restored to her job, which she loves. The people of Ohio and America ought not be deprived of the services and contributions of an intelligent, hardworking and loyal American," the committee said in a statement.

Contact the writer at chrisdavis@chinadailyusa.com


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