Many Asian-American advocates expressed their outrage after FBI Director Chris Wray said that Chinese students in the United States may pose a national security threat for the country, suggesting they could be gathering intelligence.
At the recent Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual open hearing on the greatest threats to the country, Florida senator, Marco Rubio, asked the director about the “the counterintelligence risk posed to U.S. national security from Chinese students, particularly those in advanced programs in science and mathematics.”
Wray, also describing China as a threat to the country, said that this matter goes far beyond the math and science departments.
“The use of non-traditional collectors, especially in the academic setting — whether it’s professors, scientists, students — we see in almost every field office that the FBI has around the country. It’s not just in major cities. It’s in small ones as well, it’s across basically every discipline. And I think the level of naivete on the part of the academic sector about this creates its own issues,” the director said, Shanghaiist via Medium reported.
“They’re exploiting the very open research and development environment that we have, which we all revere. But they’re taking advantage of this. One of the things we’re trying to do is to view the Chinese threat as not just a whole of government threat, but a whole-of-society threat, on their end. And I think it’s going to take a whole-of-society response by us. It’s not just the Intelligence Community, but it’s raising awareness within our academic sector, within our private sector, as part of defense,” Wray added.
The FBI director continued to note that the bureau is currently investigating several academic institutes in the country. One in particular that the FBI is focusing on are the ones where Confucius Institute, a non-profit educational organization aimed to promote Chinese language and culture, which is backed and funded by the government of China, is present.
“We’ve been watching that development for a while. It’s just one of many tools that they take advantage of. We have seen some decrease recently in their own enthusiasm and commitment to that particular program, but it is something that we’re watching warily and in certain instances have developed appropriate investigations into them,” Wray said.
Many critics, over the years, have accused the institution of spreading Chinese propaganda into the U.S., one of which is Rubio. The 46-year-old senator had sent letters to five Florida institutions advising them to immediately halt the Confucius Institute.
Head of Stanford’s Asian-American Student Association, Jason Li, expressed his outrage with Wray’s comment at the committee.
“We strongly denounce Director Wray’s comments, which fall in line with a long history of targeting, vilifying, and scapegoating immigrants under the cloak of national security,” Li said in a statement, The Daily Beast reported. “International students are our friends, our colleagues, and our family…This overreach of national security harms our communities, and we condemn Wray’s statements in our fight against racial profiling and discrimination.”
“We cannot have every Chinese student or scientist assumed guilty until proven innocent of a national security threat,” head of Asian-American Advancing Justice, John C. Yang, said. “We understand there is a real threat coming out of China, but expect that top-notched intelligence agencies have better tools to rely on than racial profiling every Chinese person coming to America.”