Rally to stop Asian hate, McPherson Square, D.C. 3/21/21

‘Stop AAPI Hate Coalition’ Demands U.S. Terminate Program Fighting Chinese Communist Party Spies.


Over 20 advocacy groups comprising the “Stop AAPI Hate” coalition sent a letter demanding the Biden White House terminate the Department of Justice’s Trump-era “China Initiative” – which identifies and prosecutes Chinese Communist Party espionage operations – and publicly discredit the COVID-19 “lab leak” theory.

The six-page letter from leaders of various groups comprising the “Stop AAPI Hate” movement calls for “substantive policy change,” including the termination of the Justice Department’s China Initiative.

Inaugurated under the Trump administration in November 2018, the effort “identified a number of goals for the Department, ranging from increased focus on the investigation and prosecution of trade secret theft and economic espionage, to better countering threats posed by Chinese foreign investment and supply chain vulnerabilities.”

Several convictions of researchers and consultants failing to disclose ties to the Chinese Communist Party and its military have been carried out under the program.

The various “AAPI” interest groups, however, identity the initiative as “subject[ing] Asian American and Asian immigrant scientists and others — particularly those of Chinese descent — to racial profiling, surveillance and wrongful prosecutions, where no evidence of economic espionage or trade secret theft exists” in the letter.

Signatories also affirmed COVID-19 counting natural origins, linking the “lab leak” theory to the “false scapegoating of Asian Americans as somehow to blame for the pandemic.”

In the coming weeks, your Administration is set to report out on its 90-day investigation into the origins of COVID-19. The sad but undeniable truth is that the simple existence of that report will put our communities at risk. We recognize your Administration’s legitimate interest in identifying the source of this pandemic for the purpose of preventing future outbreaks. At the same time, perception matters. And when your review was announced, many interpreted it as a validation of the so-called “lab leak” theory.

As you well know, while most scientists agree that transmission via natural origins is a more likely explanation, the hypothesis that COVID originated from Chinese laboratory experiments has sparked a flurry of conspiracy theories that have been weaponized by politicians and pundits resulting in a false scapegoating of Asian Americans as somehow to blame for the pandemic.

The chief purveyors of these conspiracy theories are not interested in getting to the bottom of whether an accidental outbreak could have occurred in a laboratory setting. Instead, they aim to deflect criticism about the early U.S. response to the pandemic and direct blame at China and, by extension, Asian Americans. They are frequently the same people who use racist monikers for the virus and demonize immigrants.

Chinese state-run media outlets have given the letter favorable coverage by amplifying its demands to halt the DOJ’s China Initiative.

“More than 20 Asian-American advocacy groups have jointly sent an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, urging him to pause an ongoing initiative of the Department of Justice targeting China,” notes state-run outlet Xinhua News.


Natalie Winters

Natalie Winters is freelance reporter.

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