News Reporters or "Spies", What's the Implication?
Now, in many corners of America, there is this unmistakable suspicious attitude towards ethnic Chinese made justifiable by many newspaper commentaries (please read Spy Gate on the Huaren web site.) In the New York Times, two of the bombing victims of the Embassy attack were labelled as spies for China. Why so much accusation lately? A very possible reason is that some US politicians want to make a HUGE issue out of this international spying scandal to make Bill Clinton's Chinese policies look very bad.
Could these accusations be valid? Huaren does not claim to know the intricacy of international politics. But return to the suggestion that two of the bombing victims were actually spies, well, they were officially international reporters for a Chinese newspaper. So their work must involve gathering and collecting information and feed their findings into some database. A job description that certainly overlaps with that of spies. There are many news "junkies" browsing the web everyday to gather information, their work is not much difference from that of an "intelligence officer".
Let me repeat, Huaren does not have the knowledge to prove/disprove many of the accusations concerning Chinese spying, but we certainly understand and feel the implications of these charges.
Practically, what does all these mean to Chinese Americans? Will the glass ceiling currently exists in many high-tech workplaces drop ever lower? After all, if the government should make it more difficult to offer contracts to a high-tech company with a significant ethnic Chinese staff, then which manager/CEO would be willing to promote his ethnic Chinese employees? Along the same line, will technology businesses run by ethnic Chinese be hurt?
Will the Chinese or other East Asian kids be jeered at by other kids because of what those other kids might have learned or picked up from their unsophisticated parents? Remember, most Middle Americans cannot distinguish a second generation Chinese American from someone living in HongKong or Beijing.
Will travelling or immigration from China be more restricted from now on? Will family-reunions be jeopardized for many Chinese Americans?
A potentially difficult road lies ahead for many Chinese Americans.
China-Bashing, Chinese-American Lynchings,
and the Climate of NeoMcCarthyism
I will tell you why many Chinese-Americans, both foreign-born and native, are reacting so viscerally to the latest nuclear spy story revolving around a 59-year old Taiwanese-American scientist.
Wen-Ho Lee, of New Mexico, a contract employee from the University of California assigned to Los Alamos Lab in Albuquerque, was summarily discharged recently from his sensitive post by Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, strewn in the swirling vortex of "cloak and dagger" theft charges by U.S. counterintelligence against China.
This is not just about the guilt or innocence of a single, ethnic, foreign-born citizen of Chinese descent, for which none of us, in the diverse communities of Diasporic Chinese all throughout the globe, given what little dribble of credible information disclosed thus far by official authorities, including the FBI, can even begin to conjecture much less conclude.
All we know is that he was fired based on some breaches of workplace rules at Los Alamos, without a hearing, have not been arrested nor charged. He has neither come forward publicly to defend himself, nor has his or her attorney appeared, assuming that he has retained one.
The mainstream news media and radio talk-show hosts have behaved like "barracudas" since the story broke in the New York Times. From suspicion, and allegations of espionage, viciously attacking him in a feeding frenzy.
The coverage has been mostly despicable and inflamatory, not unlike Richard Jewell, the rotund "Samaritan" security guard hounded as the "Atlanta Olympics bomber" by many in the American press. As it turned out, subsequently, Mr. Jewell was not only exonerated but found to have been a victim of defamatory conduct by irresponsible members of the press.
This is the "Rodney King" "O.J. Simpson" cases of the Chinese-American community, bringing with it, and conjuring up all the emotional hysteria of a public media and a partisan Republican lynching of a private,obscure foreign-born scientist in a massive, "guilt by ethnicity," Kafkaesque inquisition which violates basic, fundamental principles of fair play, due process, and the constitutional protections, including the presumption of innocence, right to counsel, and equal protection under the laws.
Worse, the process by which Wen-Ho Lee was trapped in this vortex of suspicion, complicity, and betrayal of secrets, have been massaged by a confluence of strange bedfellows including, the neo-China bashers from the Left and the Right, the human rights lobby, certain Republican wannabes capitalizing on a hot campaign issue, certain cold warriors from the American Defense and Intelligence institutions listless and jobless after the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the demise of the Evil Empire.
In the Rodney King beating, African-Americans reacted vociferously because they live and experience police brutality and disparate treatment from law-enforcement officials. With O.J. Simpson, they looked at the farcical criminal justice system in America, and basically chalked on up for a black man in distress with jury nullification.
And so it is with Chinese-Americans and Diasporic Chinese overseas, including myself, and especially professionals, academics, and scientists who all can relate to experiences of uneven, unequal, disparate, and/or cold and racist treatment in the American workplace, research labs, academia, and the mainstream societal institutions, from news media to corporate America.
As it was with African-Americans' alienation and disconnectedness from our police enforcement and criminal justice system, the majority of Chinese-American professionals and scientists are alienated and frustrated by the many "glass ceilings" and ethnic stigmatization that attaches to their 'Asianness,' 'Foreign-ness,' and the 'Everyone looks and acts alike' stereotype in the environment surrounding their country of citizenship.
In the the fields of cutting-edge technology, it is not uncommon to see foreign-born scientists and professionals from China, Taiwan, HongKong, or Southeast Asian Diasporic Chinese communities, as is the case from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh.
Let us not mince our words about our role as Diasporic Chinese overseas in U.S.-China Relations.
When the pendulum of U.S.-China relations swings upward, Diasporic Chinese overseas, by virtue of their dual identity, backgrounds, and language skills, are viewed positively as "bridges" to liaise with the homeland, and to close the cultural divide between the homeland to their adopted country, and vice-versa. When good business deals materialize, our "middleman" role is encouraged.
These exchanges contribute to the success of foreign trade for all Americans.
In a world of increasing globalization, all forms of exchanges, social, cultural, economic, personal between the world's most powerful and the world's most populous is not only inevitable but necessary.
On the other hand, in this latest downward swing of the pendulum in U.S.-China relations, our "bridging" role has now become a liability and an object of suspicion, mistrust, and disloyalty. Where contacts, liaisons, developing "guanxi" in the past were desired, now the potential "fifth column" tag attaches.
As an American citizen of Chinese descent, a diaspora ethnic Chinese with cultural ties to China and things Chinese, I hope this latest downward swing of the pendulum in U.S.-China relations does not deteriorate further into a climate of witch-hunts and McCarthyism, irrational China bashing, Chinese-American lynchings, and guilt by ethnicity.
Wen-Ho Lee, the Chinese-American nuclear scientist, deserves to be treated fairly, and equally, no more, no less, like any other American, whether native or foreign-born. Until his guilt is proven in our American system of justice, he deserves no less than our much-vaunted presumption of innocence.
Hounding and tagging him as a Chinese spy, at this time, is irresponsible and violates the fundamental spirit of fair play and justice in America.