Saturday, January 16, 2016

Caltech biologist petitions attorney general over arrests of Chinese scientists: Larry Wilson

Caltech biologist petitions attorney general over arrests of Chinese scientists: Larry Wilson

Caltech's Beckman Auditorium. (Staff photo by Walt Mancini) 
Caltech biologist Alice Huang is spearheading the local effort to petition U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate a series of wrongful prosecutions of Chinese-American academics as “spies” for China.
Huang — the former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and professor at Harvard Medical School and NYU dean of science before moving to Pasadena — and 22 other scientists from around the country have rounded up the backing of five Nobelists to lend even more star power to their petition to the AG.
From the group’s release announcing its concerns: “The initiating signers strongly support the government’s effort to investigate and prosecute the stealing of government and corporate secrets but are appalled by the apparent pattern of singling out Chinese-Americans, without adequate investigations, by federal law enforcement and prosecutors seemingly on the basis of ethnicity in violation of their equal protection rights. ...
“Five months after the arrest of Dr. Sherry Chen of the National Weather Service, the case was dismissed on the eve of her trial without explanation. Similarly, Dr. Xiaoxing Xi, Chair of the Physics Department at Temple University, was dragged from home with guns pointed at his wife and children. His case was also dismissed by the court. The government’s evidence was not even related to the technology it claimed to be. Dr. Chen and Dr. Xi’s reputation and careers have been damaged and their families have suffered mentally and financially. Dr. Chen and Dr. Xi’s cases are only the latest cases in recent years involving Chinese-American scientists and engineers falsely charged for similar crimes. This apparent pattern subjects innocent Chinese-Americans to live and work in fear and disadvantage. It also weakens the nation’s scientific, technological and economic competitiveness by discouraging Chinese-Americans from entering or staying in STEM occupations in universities, national labs and industry.”
It’s a fascinating and, yes, troubling aspect of the increasing prominence of Chinese and Chinese-American scientists in our top tech spheres at the same time as there are still tensions between the two nations.
AT RANDOM ON WEDNESDAY:
Everyone knows Pasadena will miss the leadership of Sheldon Epps as artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse, but the good news is that he is saying a very long goodbye and will stick around in an emeritus roll even after that. After so many years of being on the verge of going under, Sheldon really figured out how to keep the crowds coming in. The Playhouse has been such a huge supporter of our LitFest Pasadena, providing its extraordinary venues for many of our events. I was so honored last spring when the Playhouse asked me to give a small talk on dialect in writing before some “Pygmalion” performances and doubly so when Sheldon dropped in and told hilarious stories about his famously demanding diction professor when he was a young theater student ... I ran out of room last week re the Stanford band at the Rose Bowl for another Tournament of Roses anecdote: According to a former chair of the TofR’s Music Committee, one year the band’s leaders announced they would have trouble negotiating the turn at Orange Grove and Colorado near the beginning of the Rose Parade, and weren’t sure they wanted to try. And once it got out of range of the television cameras, the band would rather not walk the rest of the five miles, and would instead simply leave the route.
“Over my dead body!” was the White Suiter’s reply. “You will negotiate the turn, and you will proceed to parade’s end, with everyone else!” The band claims it only tried to negotiate riding in golf carts instead.