Chinese scholar disturbed by treatment from US officials


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Chinese scholar disturbed by treatment from US officials


Source: China Daily    Published: 2020-06-17

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in the United States, China has sent chartered flights to bring back Chinese students and scholars having difficulties staying in the country. But some have been disturbed by the actions of some US officials before boarding the planes.

One scholar, surnamed Huang, is among them. Huang, who is from an eastern province of China and insists on anonymity, took a chartered plane from New Jersey back to China in late May. He was stuck in the US due to COVID-19 after spending seven months at Princeton University as a visiting scholar.

He went through security checks and was waiting for the plane when six US officials, including officials from the US Department of Homeland Security, stopped him and took him to a small room in the airport.

"I didn't expect that, the disturbance was severe to me," he said. "They suspected I had endangered US security but had no sound reasons. I do not even work in a sensitive sector."

Huang was questioned for over two hours before he was finally let go. These questions ranged from why he was taking this plane to who has sponsored his overseas research program and how he conducted research.

"They also demanded I give them the password to my electronic devices, so they could check my personal computer and mobile phone. I felt uncomfortable about that, but they said they have the right to do it according to US law. So I had to hand in my mobile phone and computer."

Huang was let go as nothing related to security issues was found by the officials, but his mobile phone and computer were taken away for further lab checks. The two bags he carried with him were also searched, and a hard disk storing his research data and findings was also taken away.

Huang said the questioning was without reason and he felt like he was being picked on.

"I'm an ordinary scholar and I never thought I would lose my recent research data and findings this way, which is a huge loss to me," he said. With great disappointment, he has been calling DHS to see if his belongings will be sent back to him as promised by the officials, but has heard nothing yet.

Wang Wen, executive dean of the Chinese think tank Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, said the US has been exerting pressure over China and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries are among the first to bear the brunt.

Last February, Wang received an email from the US embassy telling him his 10-year visa had been canceled, without giving a reason for the decision.

"The US government does not believe in the importance of people-to-people and cultural exchanges," he said. "Many Chinese scholars and researchers in the think tank community, education sector, and scientific and technological community have been disturbed and targeted by the US, and this situation is likely to become more severe."

Wang said being disturbed and targeted without reason would inevitably change many Chinese scholars' and researchers' good impressions of the US.

"The obstacles created by the US would also drive Chinese scholars and researchers to make more achievements on their own," he said.

Wang Wen is professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, and executive director of China-US People-to-People Exchange Research Center. His latest book is Great Power's Long March