The pictures from Hong Kong are impressive.
Hong Kongers are resisting and standing up to China’s real attempt to extradite dissidents and transform the old “one country, two systems” idea into more of the ruling party’s autocratic view.
Seeing the massive crowds, it’s never been more clear that people power is still a thing.
From tank man in Tienanmen Square 30 years ago, to the recent photo of “shield girl,“ it’s undeniable: people will risk personal safety to demand their right to freedom.
That’s just the human way.
And while two million people are protesting on the streets of Hong Kong, I wonder how many would be out in the streets demonstrating if they knew how the U.S. and the FBI were working hard to strip the civil liberties of Asians and Asian Americans here in the U.S.—especially those in scientific research fields.
Right now, if you have a Chinese name and you are a cancer researcher at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, the FBI is now allowed to search network accounts without a subpoena.
To put it bluntly, Asian and Asian American scientists have been sold out by their bosses to be targeted for FBI surveillance.
It’s been happening since Nov. 2017. And it’s only gotten worse during the Trump administration, with the FBI aggressively taking a “whole society” approach in a new “cold war” with China.
These days, anyone with an Asian face or name wearing a white coat in a lab is seen as someone who could potentially compromise U.S. business interests through the theft of intellectual property.
Ask Yanjun Xu, who was arrested and is awaiting trial in Ohio for posing as an academic and luring GE scientists to China to gain confidential information.
Xu’s arrest has led to more visas denied, more scientists detained at airports.
It’s also heralded a brand new era of racial profiling.
Gone are the days when scientists were assumed to be innocently working for the good of humanity. Academic work, especially when it comes to something like cancer research, doesn’t always result in a patentable drug but leads to a new preventative approach. That’s the kind of collaboration Xifeng Wu had at MD Anderson.
Now her work is being lumped in with the more business/corporate fields like aerospace, and Xu’s arrest.
Aggressive action against all Asian researchers usually means mistakes are made.
According to the “New Red Scare,” a report in Bloomberg Businessweek by Peter Waldman, between 1997 and 2009, 17 percent of defendants indicted under the U.S. Economic Espionage Act had Chinese names. The number tripled to 53 percent between 2009 and 2015.
And the net results after profiling have been dismal. One in five of the Chinese-named defendants were never found guilty—that’s twice the rate of wrongful accusations among non-Chinese defendants.
Andrew Kim, a visiting scholar at South Texas College of Law in Houston and a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig,, called the situation “researching while Asian.”
Listen to the Bloomberg piece here.
Read it here.
So while Hong Kongers are angry about the move to crack down dissidents there, don’t forget we have a real problem when it comes to civil liberties right here.
There’s not a million of us on the streets yet in America. But something is happening to Asian Americans.
It’s like the second coming of Wen Ho Lee.
If you don’t know or remember who he is, that’s a problem. We can take care of that in the digital age. (Use this 60 Minutes video to refresh your memory.)
More problematic is that racial profiling’s comeback has been brewing since Lee, and as the Bloomberg piece points out, has escalated under Trump.
It seems to be one of the few things the FBI and Trump agree on–the profiling of Asian scientists as a deranged form of intellectual protectionism.
In between the tariff and trade posturing, the targeting of the scientists goes on, unnoticed by most Americans.
Time to draw inspiration from the Hong Kongers.
It’s all just a matter of freedom.