An article by Soumya Karlamangla for the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and The Daily Californian reveals how the nation’s first Asian American college chancellor of a major university was a victim of fear mongering about China.
Chang-Lin Tien became chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley in 1990.
Documents uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act show the FBI had been investigating Tien since at least the 70’s for suspected sympathies with the Chinese Communist Party.
The FBI’s own investigation discovered nothing that would substantiate those fears. In 1996, President Clinton considered Tien for an appointment as US Energy Secretary. During roughly the same time, Tien was soliciting donations for US Berkeley’s East Asian library. Among his contributors, Mochtar Riady, a Chinese businessman who lived in Indonesia.
Riady became entangled in a fundraising scandal in which Asian donors were accused of contributing to political campaigns to influence Clinton’s China policies.
The Washington Post published a story that Riady’s relatives had been admitted into Berkeley despite submitting test scores after the deadline.
Shortly after, President Clinton informed Tien his name had been withdrawn from consideration for the Energy Department post.
You can read more about what the FBI’s investigation of Tien discovered and the consolation prize President Clinton gave Tien in Northwest Asian Weekly.