Chinese-Americans Protest Richardson Cabinet Post

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Barack Obama is set to name New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary Wednesday, pleasing those who wondered why there were no Latinos in his Cabinet. But not everyone is happy:

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.

"This was the major Chinese-American civil rights case in the last 30 years,'' said Albert Wang, a Fremont physician. "And there was a feeling among many Chinese-Americans, particularly in Silicon Valley, that Bill Richardson did a lot to promote the notion that all Chinese-Americans are potential spies.''

Meanwhile, top Latino lawmakers are saying they will be disappointed if Richardson is the only Hispanic member of Obama's Cabinet.

Read more about Bill Richardson's Cabinet post.