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A wrongfully terminated Chinese-American scientist was simply awarded practically $2 million in damages


Chen’s case mobilized a grassroots advocacy community of involved Chinese-American residents, who raised consciousness about her expertise, lobbied members of Congress on her behalf, and raised cash for her authorized protection. One of those teams would later turn out to be APA Justice, one of the crucial vocal and constant voices in opposition to the China Initiative and racial profiling.

When news broke that Chinese-American lecturers have been once more being investigated and terminated underneath suspicion of espionage in 2019, the networks initially created to help Chen reactivated. 

For many observers, the parallels have been clear. “With the China Initiative, we’ve got seen a number of failed and weak prosecutions. Ms. Chen is definitely not alone in that regard,” Ashley Gorski, a senior employees legal professional with the ACLU National Security Project, which helped characterize Chen, instructed MIT Technology Review. 

Chen was arrested in 2014 and charged with espionage by the FBI, which alleged that she illegally accessed a authorities database to share delicate details about American dams with Chinese scientists. Further investigation revealed that what Chen had truly executed was use a shared password, broadly recognized inside her workplace, to entry a database for her work. The lack of proof led the Justice Department to drop its costs 5 months after submitting them. Still, Chen was fired from her job—for a similar now-discredited causes that led to the FBI costs. 

The defective data got here from the Commerce Department’s Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS), an inside safety unit {that a} July 2021 Senate investigation discovered had engaged in broad patterns of unfounded, discriminatory investigations geared toward Chinese-American and different staff—and which named Chen’s case for instance of misconduct. ITMS was disbanded shortly after the report was revealed. 

In the meantime, Chen filed a wrongful termination grievance to the Merit Systems Protection Board, a quasi-judicial physique that oversees employment circumstances involving federal staff, and gained. But the Commerce Department, which oversees the National Weather Service, appealed. Personnel shortages on the MSPB left the enchantment in limbo for years, so in 2019, Chen filed a civil suit in opposition to the United States authorities for malicious prosecution and false arrest. Her authorized group sought $5 million in damages. 

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