​​​​​​​Advancing Justice – AAJC Commends End to China Initiative, Calls for Transparency and Vows to Watch Dismantling Closely

The Asian American civil rights group calls racial profiling a historic and systemic problem in government surveillance and national security programs
For Immediate Release
Vivin Qiang 202-780-9327 vqiang@advancingjustice-aajc.org
Michelle Boykins (202) 296-2300, ext. 0144 mboykins@advancingjustice-aajc.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an end to the controversial “China Initiative,” and a series of changes to their national security approach to address concerns of profiling of Asian Americans and immigrants lifted up by Advancing Justice - AAJC and other civil rights and academic groups.  

John C. Yang, Advancing Justice – AAJC president and executive director, issues the following statement in response: 

“We commend the Justice Department’s recognition that the ‘China Initiative’ was not the right approach, and the effect it had on the Asian American community.  This is an important step towards ending the cyclical and historic racial profiling of Asian Americans and immigrants.  The U.S. government has a long history of treating Asian Americans and immigrants as perpetual foreigners and national security threats based on race, ethnicity, or national origin. This has resulted in lasting harm for our communities and undermined the credibility of our justice system and democracy. 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.

This is also welcomed news for the many organizations with whom we have been in coalition in calling for an end to this program and for the many people who have been directly impacted by unjust investigations and prosecutions. Our organization, along with 68 other civil rights and community groups, asked then President-elect Joe Biden to raise our concerns with the Justice Department’s ‘China Initiative.’ Advancing Justice – AAJC has been spearheading a coalition of Asian American partner organizations, civil rights groups, and the academic community to meet with the White House, Congress, federal agencies, and government officials to demand an end to this deeply flawed and harmful initiative. The Justice Department acknowledged the concerns raised by the Asian American and academic community. We commend the DOJ for listening to our community concerns and taking decisive action by ending the ‘China Initiative.’

As the ‘China Initiative’ is dismantled, Advancing Justice – AAJC calls for transparency into how the federal government will dissolve the program and implement structural changes to address community concerns as it continues to pursue real national security threats. We will be following how the Justice Department addresses pending cases and investigations that are inconsistent with the standards set out by the Justice Department.  We recognize the importance of a shift from a country specific approach towards a broader approach that focuses on nation-state security threats. Moreover, charging guidance for grant fraud cases that require the elements of criminal intent, materiality, and a nexus to national security are crucial in ensuring that Justice Department resources and prosecutorial discretion are applied to cases appropriately. The focus should never be on ethnicity, race, or national origin. 

Advancing Justice - AAJC will continue to provide recommendations and push for substantive changes to protect the community. We call on the federal government to be swift and transparent in its re-training of investigators, prosecutors, and other government staff to address racial bias not only against Asian Americans and immigrant scientists and researchers, but also against the AMEMSA (Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian) community and other communities of color. We look forward to understanding how they will remedy the unjust charges against those who have been arrested, lost their jobs, and had their lives destroyed. 

Advancing Justice – AAJC vows to watch the federal government every step of the way as the ‘China Initiative’ ends. As our communities continue to fight back against systemic racism and anti-Asian hate, we will hold the government accountable to ensure justice is delivered to the victims of the ‘China Initiative’ and racial profiling does not happen again to anyone.”