Chinese-American completes ‘long journey’ to justice – Sherry Chen’s Victory

Chinese-American completes ‘long journey’ to justice

Silicon Valley celebrates Sherry Chen’s victory in her lawsuit against the government

In 2016, Ding Ding TV interviewed Ohio Chinese American scientist-Sherry Chen when she was accused by the American Government in 2016.

On Nov. 20th 2022, Silicon Valley Celebrates Sherry Chen’s victory in her lawsuit against the government.

As an award-winning hydrologist at the National Weather Service, Sherry Chen built and implemented flood prediction models to save American lives and properties in the Ohio River Valley.

Born in China, she is a loyal naturalized American citizen. However, Sherry Chen has been persecuted repeatedly by the U.S. Government since 2012, first being wrongly prosecuted for espionage-related charges in 2014. Despite the case was dismissed without redress or apology to Sherry Chen, she was then wrongly fired from her job in 2016. After she won an appeal decision overwhelmingly to reinstate her to her job with backpay and benefits, the Government continued to abuse its authority and public funds to delay and deny her due justice in 2018.

Learn more about Sherry Chen and her story.

This month, the legal team for Sherry Chen, an award-winning Chinese American Scientist in the U.S. Department of Commerce, announced that the U.S. Government agreed to pay Sherry Chen almost $2 million in damages as settlement for the injustice Sherry endured in the past ten years.

This weekend, Monica Yeung opened her home and welcomed Sherry and her supporters who gathered to celebrate her victory.

Chinese-American completes ‘long journey’ to justice

But does Sherry Chen’s legal victory signal the end of racial profiling by US authorities?

Sherry Chen threw a party last weekend to celebrate her legal victory over her former employer, the US Department of Commerce (DOC). The purpose of the party, Chen said, was to thank her many loyal supporters for standing with her throughout her “long journey seeking justice.”

The celebration took place at a home in Palo Alto, California, belonging to Adrian and Monica Yeung Arima, where Chen was staying as their houseguest. Silicon Valley was where many of her supporters reside who donated to her legal defense fund and gave abiding moral support. Around a hundred attended the party.

Long ordeal begins
In October 2014, after a two-year investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation came to her workplace and took her away in handcuffs, to the shock and surprise of her colleagues. In March 2015, federal prosecutors dropped all charges without any explanation. That should have been the end of the Sherry Chen story, but it wasn’t.

Sherry Chen and George Koo.
Amazingly, in March 2016, Chen, a hydrologist, was fired from her job with the National Weather Service (NWS) based on the same charges that had been discarded by the prosecutors. NWS is under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Asia Times described the twisted shenanigan that took place between the NWS and NOAA in order to formalize the paperwork for Chen’s dismissal – hint, the head of NWS wriggled and managed to stay out of the fray.

Shocked by the development, she said to Asia Times, “Why do I have to accept the unfair and unjust treatment my government has given me? I am not just fighting for myself but for all victims of racial profiling so that it won’t happen again.”

MSPB rules in her favor
Chen then filed a complaint for wrongful termination with the Merit System Protection Board. The MSPB was established to protect federal workers against abuses by their employers. To the surprise of many, the chief administrative judge, Michele Schroeder, ruled in her favor as the victim of gross injustice.

From the time she filed with the MSPB to reaching the verdict took one and a half years. Judge Schroeder order reinstatement with back pay and benefits. Historically, the odds of winning a ruling from the MSPB against the federal government had been less than one in a hundred. So, in April 2018, the verdict should have been the end of Chen’s journey and a cause for celebration.

But it wasn’t, because the DOC filed an appeal, which needed to be heard by a quorum of two or more judges. At the time the MSPB had only one working judge, and therefore the appeal was sent into limbo. Was the DOC aware of the delay due to a technicality? Of course.

On January 2019, Chen filed a civil lawsuit against the DOC alleging malicious prosecution and false arrest and sought $5 million for damages and compensation. In October 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union along with Cooley LLP, a major law firm headquartered in Palo Alto, joined her legal team in pursuing the suit.

Finally, early this month, Chen along with ACLU announced a settlement that would pay her $550,000 and an annuity of $125,000 per year over the next 10 years. Thus she can claim a happy ending after a decade-long journey.

“It’s an enormous victory for Ms Chen personally,” said Ashley Gorski, a senior staff lawyer with the ACLU National Security Project, “and for the Chinese-American community as well. The settlement makes clear that when the government discriminates, it’s going to be held accountable.”

ACLU proclaims Chen’s win historic
The ACLU called her settlement historic, unprecedented and the largest ever paid by the DOC. All true, but Chen’s win, in my view, just recovers her legal fees and back wages. And her case is just a beginning of possible rectification and does not signify the end of systemic racial profiling against Chinese-Americans by the US government.

As I observed in 2015, “Rather than compiling evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, the FBI and fellow practitioners will jump at any flimsy thread of possible wrong doing, make a public arrest, send out a press release on their accusation and put the hapless Chinese American in detention.

“When their findings are then subject to scrutiny and fail to pass muster, the charges are quietly dropped. By then, of course, the reputation of the person is in tatters and the victim’s life and finances are in ruin.”

Since the celebrated Wen Ho Lee case and even earlier, to this day, Chinese-American scientists are considered guilty until proven innocent. The burden of proof is on the accused. In Sherry Chen’s case, even when proven innocent, the burden was still on her to fight for the justice that was her due.

According to an article published last December by the MIT Technology Review, analyzing the so-called China Initiative launched by former US president Donald Trump, “To date, only about a quarter of defendants charged under the initiative have been convicted, and about half of those defendants with open charges have yet to see the inside of an American courtroom.”

The remaining 25%, I surmise, had their charges quietly dismissed.

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