Dr. Rao Yi, a prominent Chinese brain scientist, who studied in the United States, got his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco; his postdoc at Harvard; was on the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis; was a full professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago was denied a visa to attend a conference sponsored by the National Science Foundation, to which he was invited. For years he traveled between the United States and China freely; but more recently he was denied a visa to attend the re—union of his lab mates at UCSF, to attend the memorial service for David Rockefeller and to visit his daughter, who is a U.S. citizen. CCS has written to the United States Secretary of State requesting his assistance with this situation and asking that he facilitate a visa for Dr. Yi.
Michael R. Pompeo
United States Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Pompeo:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write to express our concern for an untenable situation in regard to Professor Rao Yi, a top Chinese brain scientist who is currently the Director of the Chinese Institute for Brain Research in Beijing. Dr. Yi has been invited to attend a conference by our U.S. National Science Foundation (“NSF”), a government agency based in Alexandria, Virginia. He has been denied a visa. On several other occasions, prior to this, Dr. Yi was also denied visas (a re-union of his lab colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco; the memorial service for David Rockefeller; and to visit his daughter – a U.S. citizen). Rao noted that he had been regularly traveling to the United States with no difficulty until he was denied a visa for the San Francisco trip. He is unaware of anything that would have precipitated such a situation. Rao says that following the 2016 election he criticized the new president on Chinese TV, but his first visa rejection pre-dated the election.
Dr. Yi studied and worked in the United States for twenty-two years. He obtained his Ph.D. in neuroscience in 1991 from the UCSF, did a postdoc at Harvard University. He was on the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri for 10 years and later joined Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois where he became a full professor. During that time, he became a U.S. citizen. He returned to China in 2007 to become dean of Peking University’s School of Life Sciences. He later gave up his U.S. citizenship.
We are asking that you grant Dr. Yi a visa to attend professional conferences in the United States and to also visit his family and colleagues. Restrictions on Chinese graduate students that was recently imposed does not apply to senior scientists nor does it include those in the neurosciences. We are hoping that you can act quickly and provide Dr. Yi with his visa. His contributions to brain research can only benefit the United States.
Dr. Yi had a meeting with personnel at the U.S. Embassy last Monday during which they requested an updated CV and travel schedule. He said he did not have a travel schedule as he did not want to make flight reservations that he would be unable to keep in the event that the visa was not granted.
We thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to receiving your speedy response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
U.S. Ambassador to China
55 An Jia Lou Lu 100600
Director of National Intelligence
Washington, DC 20511
General John F. Kelly
White House Chief of Staff
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500