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Backlash against FBI director’s statements on Chinese spies infiltrating U.S. universities

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At an American Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on February 13, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned of China’s growing influence in the U.S.

  • Wray said that China has aggressively placed operatives at universities, “whether it’s professors, scientists, students,” requiring the FBI to monitor them from its 56 field offices across the U.S. “It’s every field office, not just major cities. It’s small ones as well,” he added.
  • Confucius Institutes — the Chinese government-sponsored academies often embedded within universities — are other surveillance targets of the FBI, according to Wray.
  • Wray talked of “nontraditional collectors” of intelligence and technology, both in business but also in academia: “I think the level of naiveté on the part of the academic sector about this creates its own issues. They’re exploiting the very open research and development environment that we have.”
  • Some senators asked Wray about telecoms manufacturers Huawei and ZTE. Wray responded: “We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.”
  • Asian-American advocacy groups are criticizing Wray for his comments on Chinese students, according to the Daily Beast.
  • “We strongly denounce Director Wray’s comments, which fall in line with a long history of targeting, vilifying, and scapegoating immigrants under the cloak of national security,”  said Jason Li of the Asian American Students Association of Stanford University.
  • “We cannot have every Chinese student or scientist assumed guilty until proven innocent of a national security threat…top-notched intelligence agencies have better tools to rely on than racial profiling every Chinese person coming to America,” said John C. Yang of Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.