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Berkeley Professor Urges Boycott of Labs
After a year in which fallout from the Wen Ho Lee case permeated the national nuclear labs, some scientists who believe the labs discriminate against Asian Americans are fighting mad and fighting back.
Who is there to defend us? computer scientist John Yio asked more than 100 of his colleagues who attended a Thursday forum last week at the Lawrence Livermore lab in Livermore, Calif. Is it worth the risk for us to seek employment with the national labs?
The main speaker at the gathering was University of California, Berkeley professor Ling-Chi Wang, who urged Asian Americans to boycott the labs in protest of alleged racial profiling following the Lee case.
Dorothy Ng, a mechanical engineer who is near retirement, denounced lab officials for recruiting young Asian Americans only to discriminate against them once they step inside the fence.
I want to urge the labs: Stop doing that, Ng said. Dont hire us if theyve decided to discriminate.
Lee, a Taiwan-born U.S. citizen fired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico last year, is in jail and under indictment on 59 counts of transferring nuclear secrets to his desktop computer and portable data tapes.
He was arrested after a lengthy investigation into allegations that nuclear secrets were passed to China, but has not been charged with spying. Many believe he is a scapegoat.
Lee maintains his innocence and sued the Justice and Energy departments and the FBI, saying officials violated his privacy by leaking information to reporters designed to make him appear to be a spy.
After Lee was fired, Asian American scientists at the national labs reported an increase in racist incidents, ranging from inappropriate jokes to denied promotions.
Overnight, all Chinese American scientists and engineers were denaturalized and became foreigners, rendering Chinese Americans synonymous with espionage and treason, Wang said.
Energy Department Bill Richardson has repeatedly said he will not tolerate discrimination and has publicly rejected racial profiling in security matters.
But, said Wang, As long as [Lee] is shackled in solitary confinement, no amount of sensitivity training is going to change the attitudes of this country.
Wang, chairman of the ethnic studies department at UC Berkeley, proposed the lab boycott through a resolution passed last month by the professional organization Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education.
He is not suggesting that Asian American scientists already employed at the labs quit, although several have left, citing Asian backlash as one reason. But Wang is urging prospective employees to look elsewhere. It is unclear whether anyone has honored the boycott.
Wang joked Thursday that he had considered more strident acts of protest, including a hunger strike in front of the White House but concluded Asian Americans just dont do these things.
Lab officials didnt directly challenge Wang at the forum.
However, organizers released a statement from Energy Department ombudsman Jeremy Wu, at his request, that said the boycott amounts to surrender and that Asian American scientists should fight, not flee, discrimination.
Lab spokesman David Schwoegler said the Lawrence Livermore lab does not have a formal position on the boycott but does actively recruit scientists of all races.