Chinese Cryptographers Denied U.S. Visas
Chinese cryptographer Xiaoyun Wang, the woman who broke SHA-1 last year, was unable to attend the Crypto conference to present her paper on Monday. The U.S. government didn’t give her a visa in time:
On Monday, she was scheduled to explain her discovery in a keynote address to an international group of researchers meeting in California.
But a stand-in had to take her place, because she was not able to enter the country. Indeed, only one of nine Chinese researchers who sought to enter the country for the conference received a visa in time to attend.
Sadly, this is now common:
Although none of the scientists were officially denied visas by the United States Consulate, officials at the State Department and National Academy of Sciences said this week that the situation was not uncommon.
Lengthy delays in issuing visas are now routine, they said, particularly for those involved in sensitive scientific and technical fields.
These delays can make it impossible for some foreign researchers to attend U.S. conferences. There are researchers who need to have their paper accepted before they can apply for a visa. But the paper review and selection process, done by the program committee in the months before the conference, doesn’t finish early enough. Conferences can move the submission and selection deadlines earlier, but that just makes the conference less current.
In Wang’s case, she applied for her visa in early July. So did her student. Dingyi Pei, another Chinese researcher who is organizing Asiacrypt this year, applied for his in early June. (I don’t know about the others.) Wang has not received her visa, and Pei got his just yesterday.
This kind of thing hurts cryptography, and hurts national security. The visa restrictions were designed to protect American advanced technologies from foreigners, but in this case they’re having the opposite effect. We are all more secure because there is a vibrant cryptography research community in the U.S. and the world. By prohibiting Chinese cryptographers from attending U.S. conferences, we’re only hurting ourselves.
NIST is sponsoring a workshop on hash functions (sadly, it’s being referred to as a “hash bash”) in October. I hope Wang gets a visa for that.
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