FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. Photo: Reuters / Leah Millis
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. Photo: Reuters / Leah Millis

A major Chinese American civic organization has condemned remarks by FBI Director Christopher Wray to the US Senate Intelligence Committee that Chinese academics, such as “professors, scientists [and] students” who study and work in the US, may be covertly gathering intelligence for the Chinese government.

The New York-based Committee of 100 (C100) said it found Wray’s comments  “disturbing and prejudicial.”

“To target a whole group of people as being subject to greater suspicion, based purely on race and national origin, and in advance of any facts or evidence, goes against the fundamental American ideals of the presumption of innocence, due process and equal protection for all. It also fans the flames of hysteria,” the committee said in a statement.

The C100 said it’s “unequivocally committed to America’s national security and recognizes the importance of ensuring our nation is able to counteract perils from espionage.”

But it emphasized that it supports “fair and appropriate investigation, prosecution, and punishment of espionage” based on evidence and not on profiling or suspicion based on race, ethnicity, or national origin.

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The group alluded to the cases of Dr. Wen Ho Lee, Dr. Xiaoxing Xi, and Ms. Sherry Chen — Chinese American scientists or federal employees who were prosecuted for espionage over the last two decades based on what the C100 said was suspicion of their ancestry, but who were later found to be innocent of wrongdoing.

“For over 160 years, despite the stereotype of being ‘perpetual foreigners’, Chinese immigrants, many of whom first arrived as students, have contributed immeasurably to the richness and success of the United States, including 8 Chinese Americans winning Nobel prizes in the sciences while working in America,” noted Frank H. Wu, Chairman of C100.

“In every field from the arts to the sciences, business to entertainment, politics to sports, Chinese Americans are loyal and hard-working citizens no different than their neighbors,” he added.

“At this time when there is great potential for polarization and misunderstanding, C100 cautions against stoking fears through broad-brush stereotyping of any group of people. As Americans, we need to speak up and renew our commitment to upholding our cherished principles of the presumption of innocence and due process for all,” the group said.

The Committee of 100 is a non-profit leadership organization of prominent Chinese Americans in business, government, academia, and the arts.

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