Applied mathematics professor Mingqing Xiao hopes to be taken off paid administrative leave after serious charges dropped.
Applied mathematics professor Mingqing Xiao hopes to be taken off paid administrative leave after serious charges dropped.

Mathematics professor caught up in “China Initiative” speaks out

September 20, 2022

For the first time, the applied mathematics professor caught up in a “xenophobic” government sweep of Chinese academics is speaking out. Mingqing Xiao was sentenced to one year probation and a fine, with court fees, of about $2,300 on Sept. 19. He released a statement Thursday saying:

“In the past two days since I came back from the court, I have received numerous personal and heartfelt greetings from many colleagues, students, and friends from this wonderful community. I sincerely thank all of you for the support and encouragement you have offered during this difficult time. I would also like to thank the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Association for their support and assistance throughout this legal process. I look forward to being able to serve our students, as well as our community, as I have done for more than two decades.”

Xiao’s friends and colleagues say the emphasis now will be getting Southern Illinois University (SIU) to take him off paid administrative leave.

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“His union attorney, union representative, the SIU Faculty Association, the SIU Faculty Senate, his Math department colleagues and many of us will continue to work to get Ming back in the classroom doing what he does best,” said music professor Ed Benyas.

Xiao was one of dozens of U.S. educators arrested as part of the Justice Department’s “China Initiative,” ostensibly designed to weed out academics who may be selling intellectual property to the Beijing government. Xiao was cleared of all charges related to such activity, but was found guilty on a minor tax charge because he did not check a box indicating he had a foreign bank account.

That account had been set up by a Chinese university to cover Xiao’s expenses during teaching and recruiting visits, which were interrupted by the COVID pandemic. Xiao told investigators he never considered the money his.

“The tax charges that the government added on the eve of a trial that they were not ready for, in an effort to get him to plead guilty, reflected innocent omissions that in the vast majority of cases are resolved in civil court, not with a federal criminal indictment,” Benyas said.

Community members submitted 27 letters of support for Xiao at his sentencing hearing Monday.

“Judge Yandle’s sentence definitely indicates that she recognizes Ming’s outstanding character, his support from the community, and his dedication to his family and his students,” Benyas said.

But, Benyas said, it’s important to remember the government made Xiao a convicted felon.

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“This was undoubtedly a xenophobic and prejudicial prosecution of an upstanding Chinese American citizen who loves his country,” Benyas said. “And the government doubled down in the sentencing phase, asking the judge to send Ming to prison for a year and to pay a fine of over $50,000… This entire ordeal is a travesty of justice.”

There is more work left to be done, he said.

“Let’s also not forget: Ming still has an enormous legal bill to resolve. And he still has to fight to get his job back,” Benyas said.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Xiao cover those legal expenses. It is at just a fraction of its $350,000 goal.

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  • J

    Jyotsna kapurOct 3, 2022 at 12:53 am

    Thank you DE for reporting on this. Prof. Xiao was exonerated on ALL charges of selling any intellectual property to the Chinese government. This was hardly mentioned in media reports. Xenophobic targeting hurts those who are it’s victims but it also poisons the community.

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  • J

    Jyotsna KapurOct 1, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    Well done DE. There was almost zero media reporting on the fact that Prof. Xiao was exonerated on ALL charges of selling intellectual property to the Chinese government. Those were false charges and need to be highlighted as part of a pattern of xenophobia that is ultimately disastrous for communities. This is the reason so many of Prof. Xiao’s colleagues support him.

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  • S

    Shahram RahimiOct 1, 2022 at 6:54 pm

    This was a clear overstepping by the government that affected the life of a Carbondale citizen and his family deeply! I lived in Carbondale for 16 years and my kids were born and raised there as did Ming’s. He has been one of the most caring and giving people I know, who has been serving this community for years! He spent his Saturdays and Sundays working with 100+ kids on different levels of Math, helping some to win state and national competitions year after year, and ALL FOR FREE! Yes, year after year, all his weekends, and for free, serving our community and our kids! Is this person a traitor? Is this person self-centered? Is he after money? The answer is NO! How wrong a government can be. He taught everyone, every color, and every race. Ming should have been given an award for everything he has done for our city, our state, and our country! HE DID NOT DESERVE THIS! Give him his job back!!

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  • A

    Anthony HamelinSep 22, 2022 at 2:25 am

    In regards to the math professor cleared of the initial criminal federal charges against him. I don’t believe the matter was one of xenophobia. The federal government is an equal opportunity prosecutor, regardless of color, gender, economic status, sexual orientation, birthplace, ECT. Lol. At age 51, comes some life experience and wisdom along the way. I’m an educated man, with both a B.S. and a Master’s from the SIU system. I’m also a liberal, politically and socially. But, my education and liberality stops at the point where it denies common sense and is contrary to the real world! The Chinese Government is a true threat to our nation’s security, & prosperity. They aren’t really communist. They are an Oligarchy with the world largest military in history. They are quietly strategic in how they engage the world and other nations, to gain leverage and control. As their military gains more power, aides by their economic growth, they grow more brazen and beligerent. One day, for the sake of survive an alliance of the world will have to fight the Chinese. No one nation can win a war with them. But, the day of confrontation is coming. And in the mean time, we’d be foolish to think they don’t have individuals in this nation whose loyalty is to China and not America. Quietly undermining our nation by using our own freedoms and system to do it. Being idealistic in college is a luxury college students can have, until you get older and gain some life under your belt and gain some wisdom and see that idealism has a time and place…but it’s not an umbrella for everything.

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    • T

      Tony WilliamsOct 1, 2022 at 10:36 am

      Does your warmongering attitude justify the appalling treatment this person has suffered? He has been found not guilty save on one technicality that is minor. He is in debt due to fighting an unjust process and the University is obligated to return him to his full status. Your attitude strongly evokes that of the McCarthy era where you would be truly at home.

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    • S

      Shahram RahimiOct 1, 2022 at 8:56 pm

      This was a clear overstepping by the government that affected the life of a Carbondale citizen and his family deeply! I lived in Carbondale for 16 years and my kids were born and raised there as did Ming’s. He has been one of the most caring and giving people I know, who has been serving this community for years! He spent his Saturdays and Sundays working with 100+ kids on different levels of Math, helping some to win state and national competitions year after year, and ALL FOR FREE! Yes, year after year, all his weekends, and for free, serving our community and our kids! Is this person a traitor? Is this person self-centered? Is he after money? The answer is NO! How wrong a government can be. He taught everyone, every color, and every race. Ming should have been given an award for everything he has done for our city, our state, and our country! HE DID NOT DESERVE THIS! Give him his job back!!

      Reply
    • G

      Geoff NathanOct 3, 2022 at 8:47 am

      While there certainly are Chinese agents at some universities, and the Chinese government is blackmailing some of their students who are here, it has been proven in open court that Professor Xiao was totally innocent, and the minor charge he was convicted of was a sop to the overzealous Justice Department, who didn’t want to be embarrassed by a totally bogus set of charges.
      Said by an Emeritus Professor of Linguistics who has been in many countries around the world, including China several times, and who is well-versed in the security field, as I was Chief Privacy Officer at my last university. Also, former faculty as SIUC.

      Reply