Study: Half of US-based Chinese scientists express fear of racial profiling and surveillance by feds

chinese scientists discrimination study

A new survey has revealed a persisting fear among U.S.-based Chinese scientists of being under federal surveillance due to racial profiling.

The findings: The study, conducted by the University of Arizona to determine the impact of the U.S. Department of Justice’s controversial China Initiative on scientists of Chinese descent, was commissioned by the Committee of 100, an organization of prominent Chinese American leaders in New York, reported Nature.

  • The research mainly focused on the internationalization of higher education, scientific collaborations and issues of neo-racism and neo-nationalism.
  • Scientists with Chinese names in the States, in addition to a random sample of non-Chinese name scientists from 83 U.S. universities, received the survey. It was reported that  1,949 scientists participated in the survey between May and July 2021.
  • University of Arizona Professor Jenny J. Lee, who led the survey, told Inside Higher Ed: “Now we have empirical evidence that it is affecting everyday scientists, Chinese and not Chinese, in different ways.”
  • Based on the findings, 42.2% of Chinese scientists believe the U.S government racially profiles them, while 8.6% of non-Chinese scientists think the same.
  • Meanwhile, 38.4% of Chinese scientists and 14.2% of non-Chinese researchers said they struggled with getting U.S. funding due to their race, ethnicity or country of origin.
  • 50.7% of the Chinese scientists surveyed reported feeling “considerable fear and/or anxiety that they are surveilled by the U.S. government,” but only 11.7% of non-Chinese scientists felt the same.
  • 23.2% of the Chinese scientists said they decided to stop collaborations with researchers in China following the crackdown, while only 9.7% of other respondents did so.

About the China Initiative: Since its launch in 2018, the Trump-era initiative has sought to find so-called Chinese spies at U.S. universities, resulting in fraud-related charges against a dozen academics.

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  • Most of these cases were based on accusations that these individuals lied about affiliations with China or funding sources on federal grant applications or others.
  • Scientific groups and civil rights advocates have previously warned about the effects of the heightened scrutiny toward researchers and faculty from China.
  • Anming Hu, a former associate professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville who was accused of deliberately hiding a professorship he held with Beijing University of Technology, was acquitted in September, NextShark previously reported.
  • In July, charges were dropped against five visiting Chinese researchers accused of lying about ties to the Chinese military.
  • Despite the feds’ legal losses, Lee lamented about how the China Initiative will continue to undermine the States’ ability to be globally competitive.
  • “We’re finding that scientists are less likely to collaborate with China, less likely to host Chinese scientists, less inclined to apply for federal funding, which means smaller projects, and more inclined to work in domestic teams,” Lee said.

Featured Image via Edward Jenner

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