A few months ago, a long-time Jewish friend of mine and I sat down for dinner. We chatted about many times: family, career, politics, history and ideology. One of the inevitable topics we discussed was the Holocaust.
I brought up the fact that China’s mentioning of Nankin massacre in the West evoked mass fears of China while Jewish bringing up of the holocaust evoked sympathy and condolence … even self reflections on humanity.
He thought I had a point … but ventured that perhaps the reason is because the Chinese and Soviets casualty were results of WAR, which was sad, but to some extent “understandable.” War had always been terrible, and modern weaponry only made it that more unbearable.
But Jewish holocaust was another thing. It was the result of ideology and racism. When Ideology and Racism Combine Caustically to Provoke Fear … When Fear Burned to Enslave and Ultimately to Kill … that is something that must be remembered.
Today we have the U.N. that work actively to avert world wars. Anyone with some knowledge of history understand that war is to be avoided at all costs. But while we can collectively actively look to avert hot wars, it is much harder to defend against ideological errors and racism. Ideology and racists attitude are pervasive, and sneaky. It’s the wild grass that is always growing … that must be incessantly pruned. Grass that might at first appear tame … before anyone notices … has become a wildfire.
In this spirit, I’d like to offer the story Temple professor Xi Xiaoxing. Professor Xi – an American citizen of Chinese descent – was arrested with much publicity a few months ago, on charges that he stole technology for China. Earlier today, the U.S. government finally decided to release him and drop all charges. It appears that the U.S. agents were all too-trigger happy, leveling trumped up charges on Xi mainly on account Xi is of Chinese descent.
Here is an excerpt of a NYTimes article on this latest development:
WASHINGTON — When the Justice Department arrested the chairman of Temple University’s physics department this spring and accused him of sharing sensitive American-made technology with China, prosecutors had what seemed like a damning piece of evidence: schematics of sophisticated laboratory equipment sent by the professor, Xi Xiaoxing, to scientists in China.
The schematics, prosecutors said, revealed the design of a device known as a pocket heater. The equipment is used in semiconductor research, and Dr. Xi had signed an agreement promising to keep its design a secret.
But months later, long after federal agents had led Dr. Xi away in handcuffs, independent experts discovered something wrong with the evidence at the heart of the Justice Department’s case: The blueprints were not for a pocket heater.
Faced with sworn statements from leading scientists, including an inventor of the pocket heater, the Justice Department on Friday afternoon dropped all charges against Dr. Xi, an American citizen.
It was an embarrassing acknowledgment that prosecutors and F.B.I. agents did not understand — and did not do enough to learn — the science at the heart of the case before bringing charges that jeopardized Dr. Xi’s career and left the impression that he was spying for China.
“I don’t expect them to understand everything I do,” Dr. Xi, 57, said in a telephone interview. “But the fact that they don’t consult with experts and then charge me? Put my family through all this? Damage my reputation? They shouldn’t do this. This is not a joke. This is not a game.”
The United States faces an onslaught from outside hackers and inside employees trying to steal government and corporate secrets. President Obama’s strategy to combat it involves aggressive espionage investigations and prosecutions, as well as increased cyberdefenses.
But Dr. Xi’s case, coming on the heels of a similar case that was dismissed a few months ago in Ohio, raises questions about whether the Justice Department, in its rush to find Chinese spies, is ensnaring innocent American citizens of Chinese ancestry.
Mr. Zeidenberg, a lawyer for the firm Arent Fox, represented both Dr. Xi and Sherry Chen, a government hydrologist who was charged and later cleared in the Ohio case. A longtime federal prosecutor, Mr. Zeidenberg said he understood that agents felt intense pressure to crack down on Chinese espionage, but the authorities in these cases appeared to have been too quick to assume that their suspicions were justified.
In Dr. Xi’s case, Mr. Zeidenberg said, the authorities saw emails to scientists in China and assumed the worst. But he said the emails represented the kind of international academic collaboration that governments and universities encourage. The technology discussed was not sensitive or restricted, he said.
“If he 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,” Mr. Zeidenberg said.
“Unfortunately I think this is influenced by the politics of the time,” he said. “But I think it’s wrong. We Chinese-Americans, we contribute to the country, to the national security, to everything.”
Temple University put him on administrative leave and took away his title as chairman of the physics department. He was given strict rules about who at the school he could talk to. He said that made it impossible for him to continue working on a long-running research project that was nearing completion.
I see so many people these days make careless attacks on China … and Chinese people … including people of Chinese descent. Many waive this off as the politics of the time. But it has hard consequences.
Chinese immigrants have long suffered the last century or two. They have been either persecuted or made person non-grata. They are used to hardship. In America, many refer to them as “model citizens” – because they can take it, and take it, without ever complaining, and still work and work and aspire to conform to mainstream society without causing any troubles.
But such abuse of an ethnic group is also akin to the abuse of the Jews before the holocaust. Are we going tolerate it … and wait and wait until the smoke has once again become a wildfire?