In Science Magazine Letter, Asian American Organizations Urge US Government to Embrace International Collaboration Over Racially Biased “China Initiatives”

Media Contact: Mary Tablante,

Washington, DC—Today, the Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF) joins the Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America, the Chinese American Hematologist and Oncologist Network, and the Chinese Biological Investigators Society in a letter published in Science Magazine that raised concerns about widespread investigations of Asian American and immigrant scientists under what science policy reporter Jeffrey Mervis has called the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) “China Initiative.”  Instead of creating an environment of deterrence, suspicion, and fear, the letter signatories urge the federal government to work with the Asian American scholar community to create welcoming academic environments and to recruit diverse talent with transparency and accountability.

Representing thousands of scientists and scholars across the country, the signatories write to uplift and respond to Mervis’s recent article in Science Magazine, “Pall of Suspicion: The National Institutes of Health’s “China initiative” has upended hundreds of lives and destroyed scores of academic careers,” which revealed widespread investigations of Chinese American scholars under the NIH.

The letter states:

We applaud the News Feature “Pall of suspicion” (J. Mervis, 24 March, p. 1180) and accompanying Editorial, “Eroding trust and collaboration” (H. H. Thorp, 24 March, p. 1171). These articles revealed secretive and widespread investigations of Chinese American scholars prompted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under what Mervis described as “NIH’s China Initiative.” As Mervis explains, “81% of the scientists cited in the NIH letters identify as Asian,” and hundreds of Chinese American scholars’ lives and careers have been disrupted or ruined. The Department of Justice’s original “China Initiative,” launched in 2018 to protect national security, raised concerns that Asian Americans and immigrants were being profiled. Although there have since been positive changes to that program, both scientists and nonscientists in the United States must remain vigilant to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

Tensions between the United States and China are likely to increase, but Chinese Americans should not be treated as collateral damage. Systems that promote bigotry against individuals of any ethnic background should not be tolerated and have no place within the US government. The United States, as a leader in science and technology, must adhere to the principles that foster a culture of inclusion, diversity, and equity. This focus will help attract the best and brightest talents from abroad, including China. The NIH policies described in the News story have negatively affected Asian Americans and eroded U.S. leadership in science and technology.

AASF President Yasheng Huang said, “The United States has long been a leader in science and technology, and to continue to do so, they must proactively create a culture of equity and inclusion. Tensions with China must not be a reason that Chinese American scholars and scientists are subjected to heightened suspicion, scrutiny, and violence. If the US intends to retain and attract diverse talent from abroad, our government must administer their global leadership with transparency, integrity, and accountability, and make every effort to rebuild trust with the Asian American and immigrant community that has been broken by the NIH investigations.”

AASF Executive Director Gisela Perez Kusakawa said, “We are devastated to hear about the many lives ruined by federal government investigations and the heightened scrutiny that Chinese American scholars face. It is a significant step backwards from the position the United States has held globally as a leader in science and technology. We urge the United States to remember and reutilize the values of international cooperation, diversity, and openness that helped make them a globally respected leader in the field in the first place. To rebuild trust, the federal government must repair the harm that has been done and work with the Asian American scholar community and academic institutions toward empowering solutions that honor each scientist and their critical work.”

View the complete letter here.


Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF) is a national non-profit that promotes academic belonging, openness, freedom, and equality for all. In response to heightened anti-Asian sentiments and profiling in the U.S., AASF has been a leading national voice fighting for the rights of Asian American and immigrant scientists, researchers, and scholars. AASF membership includes members from the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, in addition to past and current university presidents, provost, vice provosts, deans, associate deans and past and current department chairs.

The Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America (SCBA) is the largest and a rapidly growing professional organization for scientists, mostly of Chinese descent, in many biomedical disciplines with members not only in North America, but also in Asia and Europe. Currently, SCBA has approximately 2,000 members from various universities, academies, medical institutions, industrial and biotechnology companies.

The Chinese Biological Investigator Society is formerly known as the Ray Wu Society, established to honor Dr. Ray Wu’s significant contributions in the advancement of Biochemistry and Plant Biotechnology, as well as his outstanding leadership in developing the Sino-America overseas student program. CBI Society began in January 1998. The outcomes of the activities of CBI Society and its long-term proactive impact on the advancements of life sciences can not be over-estimated. CBI Society stems from a solid base of successes in fostering young scientists and of significant contributions to science and biotechnology. CBI Society will grow steadily and operate productively to live up to its great expectations.