Sherry Chen never dreamed that her name would one day be linked to Wen Ho Lee.
Sherry Chen, a Chinese American, worked for the National Weather Service before she was arrested in 2014. She analyzed the Ohio River hydrological data and forecasted floods. Her predictive model for research and development produced excellent results, and they were not confidential. Not only the U.S. public could download and make use of the results, people around the world were encouraged to use them. Her daily duties also included responding to public inquiries.
When Sherry Chen visited her relatives in China in 2012, she met briefly for about 15 minutes with one of her classmates, Jiao Yong, who was then a vice minister at the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources. At the end of the meeting, Jiao Yong asked Sherry Chen how the United States solves the problem of funding the renovation of old reservoirs, which was reportedly one of problems he faced in his work. Sherry Chen, who is accustomed to responding to public inquiries, responded that she was not an expert in the area, but would conduct some research before responding to Jiao Yong.
After she returned to the United States, Sherry Chen consulted her supervisor and received approval to proceed. Her supervisor suggested to Sherry Chen to consult with Deborah Lee at another agency. Sherry Chen did some research and consulted Deborah Lee, who sent Sherry Chen several links. Deborah Lee told Sherry Chen that if her former classmate had additional questions, he could call Deborah Lee directly. Meanwhile, Deborah Lee turned around and reported Sherry Chen to the security department. The security department launched a secret investigation of more than two years. Although no strong evidence was found, the FBI still arrested her in October 2014. The Department of Justice accused her of economic espionage, subjecting Sherry Chen to 25 years of imprisonment and a fine of one million dollars.
Sherry Chen's quiet life ceased to exist; her wages stopped; the media bombarded her; her future fluttered helplessly. Faced with a powerful national machinery and an unfamiliar legal system, Sherry Chen rose to protest, she used all her possessions to hire lawyers to prove her innocence. After over two and half years of intensive investigation and having found all the evidence contradictory to its theory of guilt, the government finally dismissed the case and dropped all the charges against Sherry Chen less than a week before the scheduled trial date.
This is no coincidence. FBI also knew that they had no evidence that Sherry Chen had intent and action to breach security. As Sherry Chen's white colleagues told the New York Times reporter, "if it were you, me, or any person of European descendant, it was nothing at all!
We have thought that the Wen Ho Lee case was a distant memory, that the government has learned a lesson and will not launch wrongful investigations and prosecutions based on ethnic background or country of origin. However, the opposite is true, the Department of Justice prosecution of economic espionage cases are increasing at an annual rate of more than 30%, of which half are related to China. In this atmosphere of extreme suspicion and constant blame, no one is safe!
Although the allegations were dropped, Sherry Chen paid a heavy price for it. The high cost of litigation left her with a huge debt of $ 200,000. However, the heavy blow did not bring Sherry Chen to her knees. Her protest continues. Her persistence will set an example to protect our civil rights for all persons of Chinese origin, and it may also greatly reduce the number of innocent victims. Her victory may bring more protection for Chinese Americans in the United States.
Few people will continue to feel that this matter has nothing to do with their own if they understand the experience and ordeals of Sherry Chen. If we do not act together, similar disasters may one day fall on your and my head.
How can we help Sherry Chen?
1) Widely post and report: WeChat groups, circles of friends, Facebook, etc. If this is the first time you heard about Sherry Chen's experience, it is likely that your friends have not heard about it either. This matters each of us closely, we should forward and let more people know.
2) Sign the petition: http://chn.ge/1SHPzx6, which is led by five Nobel laureates, including many highly respected scholars, and ask the Department of Justice to conduct an independent investigation on racial profiling and discrimination against scientists of Chinese origin.
3) Donate with your kind heart: We are used to helping and donating to fellow citizens who encounter difficulties, and Sherry Chen’s situation is similar. The injustice not only ruined her financially, but also resulted in huge debts. To Help Sherry Chen is to Help Ourselves. If you or your family in the workplace or a startup business will lessen some concern and build some confidence, the cost of a meal is a worthy donation to the Sherry Chen Legal Defense Fund at http://www.sherrychendefensefund.org/donate.html.