Sometimes, justice can feel so elusive.
A year ago, my father, Xiaoxing Xi, was arrested by the FBI. Agents woke my family early in the morning, stormed into our home, and rounded us all up at gunpoint. We watched in our PJs as my dad was handcuffed and dragged away.
Following his arrest, the U.S. government would charge my dad for passing technology secrets to China. He would be labeled a Chinese spy all over the news, and face up to 80 years in prison and $1 million fine.
Under prosecution, life was surreal, agonizing, lonely. We didn't know who would trust us or how to interact with the world anymore. Our lives were in the FBI's hands. The U.S. government wanted to put my dad in prison.
My dad is a physics professor. He has never passed secrets to China and is not a spy. On September 11 last year, all the charges were dropped. The government did not understand the science and had misconstrued the facts.
But dropped charges do not erase the trauma and paranoia from FBI surveillance, $200,000 in legal fees, or the many shattered pieces of our lives we still have to put together. It does not erase the fact that the federal government exerted its overwhelming power to try and criminalize my father in the name of national security, as if he were an enemy of his own country, America.
To date, the U.S. government has not explained or apologized for any of its actions. We still do not know why this happened. There was nothing protecting my dad from this reckless prosecution, and there is no closure.
My dad isn't alone. Other Chinese American scientists have also been falsely accused of espionage, including Sherry Chen, Guoqing Cao, and Shuyu Li. Their charges were also dropped with no explanation. The results have been devastating for all our families, and the government has been totally unaccountable.
This is not justice. As U.S.-China tensions rise, Chinese Americans are being wrongfully targeted. No American should be treated with suspicion due to their race, ethnicity, or national origin.
The destructive effects of profiling in the name of national security are well known, from the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, to McCarthyism, to the FBI threatening leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, to law enforcement targeting of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities post-9/11 and now. Over 15 years ago, Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese American scientist, was put in solitary confinement for months before the government admitted he was not a spy for China. The list goes on.
Why haven't we learned? These dangerous mentalities have deep human costs and ruin lives. They are totally contrary to our country's values. We have to speak up about this.
A campaign (scientistsnotspies.org) and petition have been started asking for an apology for those who have been wrongfully accused, and an investigation into the pattern of failed prosecutions. A call for government accountability is exactly what's needed, to ensure these reckless prosecutions do not happen again.