Justice Dept ends China Initiative started by Trump administration

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U.S. Government graphic via Wikimedia Creative Commons

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday it would be ending the three-year-old China Initiative launched by the Trump White House, reports CNN.

Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided that the cyber and security threats from China posed a greater risk on the United States than Russia and put great attention on suspected espionage from the Asian superpower.

Civil rights groups however said the program amounted to racial profiling of Asian Americans and pointed to several high profile cases under the initiative which ultimately had to be dropped or lead to an acquittal including MIT professor Gang Chen and Anming Hu of the University of Tennessee.

“This has resulted in lasting harm for our communities and undermined the credibility of our justice system and democracy,” said John Yang of Asian American Advancing Justice in a statement to AsAmNews. “The end of the “China Initiative” is one step in the work we expect from the government to address serious concerns of racial profiling and misconduct in its surveillance and national security operations, and the overcriminalization of issues related to research integrity.”

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen ordered a months-long review of the program out of concern any perception that the department unfairly targeted Chinese Americans and people of Chinese origin because of their race did more harm than good.

“By grouping cases under the China Initiative rubric, we helped give rise to a harmful perception that the department applies a lower standard to investigate and prosecute criminal conduct related to that country or that we in some way view people with racial, ethnic or familial ties to China differently, Olsen said in a speech at George Mason University in Virginia, according to Politico.

Olson emphasized the United States continues to see China as a serious threat but also would include Russia, Iran, and North Korea in its efforts.

Stop AAPI Hate applauded the decision but expressed concerns the new “Strategy for Countering Nation-State threats” will not put an end to the damage the China Initiative has caused.”

The Committee of 100, an organization made of of 100 leading Chinese Americans, also released a statement.

“The China Initiative is a failed program that has fueled racial animosity, xenophobia, and suspicion towards the AAPI community and Chinese Americans in particular,” said Zhengyu Huang, President of Committee of 100. “We appreciate Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen’s thoughtful approach to re-examine and revise the policy.”

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