A federal court in Cincinnati, Ohio concluded its public hearing on a Chinese-American scientist’s wrongful termination case on March 15, after the disgraced scientist filed an appeal asking for her job back.
The hydrologist, Sherry Chen, was fired from her position at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio after she was arrested at her workplace in 2014 and indicted on federal charges including theft of government property and illegally accessing a U.S. government database. Though all the charges against her were dropped in 2015, she was still dismissed and left with towering legal bills.
According to China Central Television, an administrative judge of the U.S. Merit System Protection Board carried out a two-day hearing beginning on March 14 to consider Chen's case. Chen was petitioning to return to her position and get her legal fees paid.
“My life was turned upside down ... I’m a dedicated worker. I didn’t do anything wrong and I love my job,” Chen told the CBS television network during an interview in 2016.
Chen was not the only Chinese-American scientist victimized and potentially scapegoated by the U.S. government. According to 60 Minutes, a CBS news television program, the Justice Department has won convictions in 14 cases related to Chinese economic espionage since 2012, while charges were dropped for five Chinese-born scientists, all American citizens.
Chen’s firing upset many Chinese-American communities, with a number of supporters flocking to her side during the public hearing.
“As a PhD student in computer science, I may become a scientist working and living in the U.S. in the future. Will I be treated unfairly just because of my nationality, like Chen? Her suffering reminds me of the Salem witch trials ... The dangers of discrimination, false accusations and lapses in due process may ruin a decent person’s life and career, which is horrific,” Boris Zhang, a student currently living in Washington, told People’s Daily Online.
Non-governmental organizations have also advocated for Chen, noting that her case is one in a string of cases involving Chinese Americans wrongfully accused of espionage, including Xiaoxing Xi, Guoqing Cao and Shuyu Li.
“These cases fit in a concerning historical trend of the U.S. government unfairly targeting Chinese Americans as threats, from FBI targeting of Chinese Americans during the McCarthy era to the prosecution and solitary confinement of Wen Ho Lee,” read a statement from Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the nation’s first legal and civil rights organization serving low-income Asian Pacific American communities.