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December 3rd, 2008
02:40 PM ET

Why Chinese American activists oppose Bill Richardson

Barack Obama has picked Bill Richardson to be the secretary of commerce.

Barack Obama has picked Bill Richardson to be the secretary of commerce.

Ken McLaughlin
San Jose Mercury News

In a move bound to create political tension between Latinos and Asian-Americans, a group of Chinese-American activists in Silicon Valley has launched a nationwide grass-roots movement to fight President-elect Barack Obama's nomination today of Bill Richardson as commerce secretary.

The group is upset at the New Mexico governor for his handling of the nearly decade-old case of Taiwanese-American Wen Ho Lee, a former nuclear scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. U.S. officials once suspected Lee of giving nuclear secrets to China when Richardson was President Clinton's energy secretary.

The Chinese-Americans say they realize that challenging the nomination of Richardson, 61, the nation's most high-profile Hispanic politician, will ruffle the Latino community, many of whose leaders felt he should have been named secretary of state instead of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

But the Chinese-American group insists that Richardson's refusal to acknowledge making serious errors in the case makes it a moral imperative to oppose his nomination to Obama's Cabinet. They say their criticism of Richardson has nothing to do with him being Latino but everything to do with his lack of judgment in the case.

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