All charges against high-profile China Initiative defendant Gang Chen have been dismissed

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China initiative

Chen was one of the most high-profile scientists charged under the China Initiative, a Department of Justice program launched under the Trump administration to counter economic espionage and national security threats from the People’s Republic of China.

Despite its stated purpose, the investigation by MIT Technology Review The initiative has found that research is increasingly focused on prosecuting academics for integrity issues – concealing ties or funding from Chinese institutions on grants or visa forms – rather than stealing industrial spies trade secrets. Of the 77 cases identified by the MIT Technology Review, only 19 (25%) are alleged violations of the Economic Intelligence Act, while 23 cases (30%) are accused of grant or visa fraud by academics.

Our reporting also found that Chinese heritage scientists have already been disproportionately affected, making up 130 (88%) of the 148 individuals charged under the initiative.

This is the eighth research integrity case dismissed before Chen’s trial. Last month, Harvard professor Charles Liber was convicted of six counts of perjury and tax evasion, while the University of Tennessee-Knoxville professor Enming Honey’s trial, the first research to go before the jury, ended in integrity, the first time since the mystery.

Cases of research integrity from MIT Technology Review’s China Initiative database

A catalytic case

Chen’s accusation led to awareness and opposition to the initiative, both due to his leadership in his field and apparently the regular activities for which he was being prosecuted, including collaborating with a Chinese university at the behest of his home organization. “We are all gang chains,” a group of MIT faculty members wrote at the time, expressing both their support for their colleagues and their concern about how their own activities could lead to a government investigation.

“The end of the criminal case is tremendous news for Professor Chen, and his defense team deserves praise for his work,” said Margaret Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall University who wrote about the China initiative. “But we should not forget that he was first interrogated at the airport two years ago and charged a year ago. Human costs are high even when the charge is low. “

She added: “I hope that the Department of Justice will soon move beyond the declarations on the review of individual cases to a comprehensive statement ending China’s initiative.”

“Rebranding the China initiative is not enough,” said Patrick Tommy, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. Represents two leading researchers mistakenly charged before the China Initiative was announced in 2018. Its policies enabling the ethnic profile in the name of national security must be fundamentally reformed. ”

It’s not just academics and civil rights groups. Over the past year, the initiative has been widely criticized. Ninety members of Congress have urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate concerns about racial profiling, and former DOJ officials have also advocated a change of direction.

John Demers, former head of the Justice Department’s division that oversees the initiative, allegedly favored a waiver program that would allow investigators to disclose previously undisclosed relationships without fear of prosecution. Meanwhile, in response to MIT Technology Review’s reporting, Andrew Lelling, a former U.S. district attorney in Massachusetts who filed the lawsuit against Chen, argued that part of the program targeting academics should be discontinued. Six more research integrity cases are pending, four of which will be scheduled for trial this spring.

Some sort of announcement could come soon: DOJ Wyn Hornbuckle said in an email to MIT Technology Review last week that the Justice Department was “reviewing our approach to the risks posed by the PRC government” and that “completion of the review and additional information Expect to provide. In the coming weeks. ”

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