- L. Ling-chi Wang: The Quintessential Scholar/Activist
I n2007, at the time ofP rofessorL ing-chiW ang’sretirement from the University of California/Berkeley, the Amerasia Journalpublished a collection of articles written by him as a tribute to a life-long activist-scholar. Professor Wang, inspired by the African American militancy of the 1960s, became politicized when he was still a graduate student pursuing a degree in ancient Near Eastern languages and literature. For four decades since, he has dedicated his life to fighting for social justice and racial equality, in addition to being a faculty member in the Ethnic Studies Department at UC/Berkeley.
There have been very few academics engaged in public discourses on contemporary political issues, even fewer have taken the role of an advocate to promote their causes, and fewer still have got involved in the nitty-gritty of strategizing, making tactical decisions, organizing grass-roots support and managing media campaigns to promote their political beliefs.
Professor Wang has been in the forefront of almost every major civil rights struggle of the Asian American community. In the early 1970s, he was one of the chief strategists in the fight for bi-lingual education that eventually led to the 1974 Supreme Court Lau vs. Nichols Decision, which greatly enhanced education opportunities for immigrants. In the early 1980s, Professor Wang came forward to confront the U.S. government for its failure to investigate the murder, committed on American soil, of American citizen Henry Liu, who was a critic of the nationalist government in Taiwan. Taiwan government agents who were members of the notorious Bamboo Alliance, a syndicate of organized crime, had perpetrated the killing. Professor Wang’s campaign led subsequently to action taken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation which resulted in the (Taiwan) Nationalist government’s eventual admission of its role in the slaying of Henry Liu. In the mid-1980s, Professor Wang was the principal campaigner against the imposition by elite American universities of admissions quota on Asian American college applicants. As a result of his relentless effort, several top universities apologized to the Asian American community and promised to end that kind of discriminatory practice.
In the 1990s, at the end of the Cold War, China became the number one enemy of the United States. This led to incidents of unwarranted suspicions of the loyalty of American citizens of Chinese descent. Professor Wang rallied the [End Page 288]Chinese American community in opposition to this type of “ethnic profiling” by conservative Republicans in portraying Asian Americans as stooges used by the Chinese Communist government to channel money to influence American politics during President Clinton’s 1996 campaign financing scandal. He was also one of the first to condemn the U.S. government’s persecution of Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese-born nuclear scientist based at Los Alamos, for allegedly spying for China. He played a key role as strategist and advisor to the Lee family in getting the scientist released from wrongful imprisonment and exonerated from the espionage charge.
Professor Wang has taken on a number of sensitive issues bringing him face to face with powerful forces, such as the intelligence community of the federal government and the establishment of Ivy League institutions. Such powerful players are generally protected by a friendly press. In addition, the public is prevented by the lack of insider information at the outset from judging the problems on the merit of specific cases. Yet long before anyone is ready, Professor Wang would speak out. His confidence is based on a keen political intuition supported by a careful analysis of each situation.
This is where his scholarly prowess fully comes into play, as is amply illustrated by the collection of his articles in the present volume. A majority of the articles in the collection are advocacy pieces. The style and format of these articles are scholarly — each is a long detailed discourse with footnotes and documentation. They usually begin with a careful presentation of the historical background of a particular issue, which is...