The China Initiative: How Chinese academics like Xiaoxing Xi were falsely accused of being spies +2023

In October, President Joe Biden appointed China to the helm threat to national security in the United States. But negative views of China already had reached historic highs in the US in 2020. Politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Biden and Donald Trump, compete to prove who is tougher on China. And as the scaremongering about China grows louder, I worry about the ordinary people who will be caught in the crossfire.

That’s not hypothetical to me. I have seen firsthand the damage that US government fears can do to national security. 2015 my father, physics professor at Temple University Xiaoxing Xi, has been unfairly monitored and criminalized in the government’s hunt for Chinese spies working at American universities. In the absence of any accountability or vigilance to prevent this damage from continuing, I fear things will only get worse.

My family’s story began early one morning in May of this year. Just back from college, I was still asleep when strange voices outside my door woke me abruptly. Confused and scared, I stumbled to flashlights shining in my eyes, at gunpoint, and a group of FBI agents surrounding my family. I saw fear and shock on the faces of my father, mother and sister as government agents pinned my father to the wall, handcuffed him and dragged him away.

Agents interrogated my mother and locked me and my little sister in another room for hours. We later found out that they had taken my father to prison. The Justice Department charged him with allegedly sharing technology secrets with people in China. He was threatened with 80 years in prison and a $1 million fine, and was portrayed as a national security threat to the US.

Everything felt completely surreal and absurd. Nothing prepares you for the day your father is accused of being a spy. And that accusation couldn’t be further from the truth. My dad is a nerdy scientist who teaches college students and does basic research in physics. He never shared secret technology with contacts in China.

Nonetheless, FBI agents searched our home and ransacked our belongings. They even tried to steal my sister’s computer – she was 12 at the time. Then the news cameras showed up and tried to film through the windows into our house. That evening we saw on the local news how the US government declared my father an international spy.

As it turned out, the US government was the one spying. we found out later that the FBI, using tools to track foreign agents, had secretly monitored my father’s communications and used his emails about disjointed academic research to try to frame him as a criminal. My family went from a normal, low key life to facing the weight of our own government coming after us.

Months later, the allegations fell apart from the government and prosecutors dropped the charges. But to date, the government has refused to explain or apologize for their actions. We were in court I’ve been looking for answers for more than five years, but still haven’t figured out why the FBI targeted my father with surveillance and false accusations, leaving us with huge legal fees and many emotional scars.

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