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Meng, Hirono and Chu lead effort to stop GOP's attempt to revive Trump-era China Initiative

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A group of Democratic lawmakers are vehemently opposing House Republicans' push to reinstate a controversial Trump-era program accused of sparking racial profiling and discrimination against Asian Americans.

About the controversial program: The China Initiative, launched in 2018 to purportedly counter Chinese espionage, was discontinued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2022. According to the dissenting lawmakers, the program is incompatible with civil rights values, noting that it resulted in unjust accusations against Asian American academics and scientists.

GOP's resurrection attempt: Republican lawmakers on the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies signaled their intent to reinstate the program in their explanatory materials for H.R. 5893, criticizing the program's termination as "irresponsible" and "unwise." They condemned the DOJ for being "politically correct" and urged the National Security Division to reinstate an office countering Chinese espionage and influence.

Challenging GOP's rationale: On Jan. 22, the Democratic lawmakers, led by Rep. Grace Meng (D, NY-6), Rep. Judy Chu (D, CA-27) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), expressed their concerns in a letter to congressional leaders. They challenged the GOP's characterization of the China Initiative's termination as "irresponsible" and argued that the initiative was a flawed prosecutorial tool. The Democrats emphasized that the program led to dropped charges, dismissals and acquittals due to a lack of evidence.

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The program’s “human toll”: The letter highlights cases such as hydrologist Sherry Chen and MIT professor Gang Chen, who were both falsely accused under the initiative. The lawmakers proposed a focus on the DOJ's new "Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats" and urged the removal of language related to the China Initiative from the final text of the Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the FY24 CJS Appropriations Bill.

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