The US Justice Department has filed a motion to dismiss each charges against MIT mechanical engineering prof and nanotechnologist Gang Chen, astir 1 twelvemonth to the time that helium was indicted connected charges relating to his alleged nonaccomplishment to disclose relationships and backing from Chinese entities.
From the start, Chen had maintained his innocence, portion MIT had indicated that Chen was moving to found a probe collaboration connected behalf of the institution, and that the backing successful question was really for the university, alternatively than Chen personally. MIT besides paid for his defense. (MIT Technology Review is funded by the university, but remains editorially independent.)
"Today’s dismissal of the transgression charges against Gang Chen is simply a effect of our continued investigation," US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Rachael Rollins shared successful a statement aft the filing. "Through that effort, we precocious obtained further accusation pertaining to the materiality of Professor Chen’s alleged omissions successful the discourse of the assistance reappraisal process astatine contented successful this case. After a cautious appraisal of this caller accusation successful the discourse of each the evidence, our bureau has concluded that we tin nary longer conscionable our load of impervious astatine trial."
“The authorities yet acknowledged what we said each along: Professor Gang Chen is an guiltless man,” Robert Fisher, Chen’s defence attorney, said successful a statement. “Our defence was ne'er based connected immoderate ineligible technicalities. Gang did not perpetrate immoderate of the offenses helium was charged with. Full stop. He was ne'er successful a endowment program. He was ne'er an overseas idiosyncratic for Beijing. He disclosed everything that helium was expected to disclose and ne'er lied to the authorities oregon anyone else.”
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The China Initiative
Chen was 1 of the astir precocious illustration scientists charged nether the China Initiative, a Justice Department programme launched nether the Trump medication to antagonistic economical espionage and nationalist information threats from the People’s Republic of China.
Despite its stated purpose, an investigation by MIT Technology Review found that the inaugural has progressively focused connected prosecuting academics for probe integrity issues—hiding ties oregon backing from Chinese entities connected assistance oregon visa forms—rather than concern spies stealing commercialized secrets. Only 19 of 77 cases (25%) identified by MIT Technology Review alleged violations of the Economic Espionage Act, portion 23 cases (30%) alleged assistance oregon visa fraud by academics.
Our reporting has besides recovered that the inaugural has disproportionately affected scientists of Chinese heritage. Of the 148 individuals charged nether the initiative, 130 (88%) are of Chinese heritage.
Chen’s is the eighth probe integrity lawsuit to beryllium dismissed earlier trial. Last month, Harvard prof Charles Lieber was found guilty of six charges of mendacious statements and taxation fraud, portion the proceedings of University of Tennessee-Knoxville prof Anming Hu, the archetypal probe integrity lawsuit to spell earlier a jury, ended archetypal successful a mistrial and past a afloat acquittal.
Research Integrity cases from MIT Technology Review's China Initiative Database
A catalyzing case
Chen’s indictment raised consciousness of, and absorption to, the initiative, owed to some his prominence successful his tract and the seemingly regular activities, including collaborating with a Chinese assemblage astatine the behest of his location institution, for which helium was being prosecuted. As a radical of MIT module wrote astatine the time, “We are each Gang Chen," some expressing enactment for their workfellow and their ain concerns astir however their ain activities could gully authorities scrutiny.
"The extremity of the transgression lawsuit is tremendous quality for Professor Chen, and his defence squad deserves accolades for their work," says Margaret Lewis, a instrumentality prof astatine Seton Hall University who has written astir the China Initiative. "But let's not hide that helium was archetypal questioned astatine the airdrome 2 years agone and indicted 1 twelvemonth ago. The quality outgo is aggravated adjacent erstwhile charges are dropped."
She added: "I americium hopeful that the Justice Department volition soon determination beyond announcements regarding the reappraisal of idiosyncratic cases to a broader connection ending the China Initiative."
"Rebranding the 'China Initiative' volition not beryllium enough," says Patrick Toomey, a elder unit lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)'s National Security Project, which has represented 2 salient researchers erroneously charged earlier the China Initiative was announced successful 2018. "The Justice Department indispensable fundamentally betterment its policies that alteration radical profiling successful the sanction of nationalist security."
But is not conscionable academics and civil rights groups that are speaking out. Over the past year, disapproval of the inaugural has ramped up from each sides, including 90 members of Congress requesting Attorney General Merrick Garland analyse concerns astir radical profiling, and adjacent erstwhile DOJ officials advocating for a alteration successful absorption arsenic well.
John Demers, the erstwhile caput of the Justice Department part that oversees the initiative, reportedly favored a connection for amnesty programs that would let researchers to disclose antecedently undisclosed ties with nary fearfulness of prosecution. Meanwhile, successful effect to MIT Technology Review's reporting, Andrew Lelling, the erstwhile U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts that brought charges against Chen, argued that the portion of the programme targeting academics should beryllium unopen down. Six much probe integrity cases stay pending, with 4 scheduled to spell to proceedings this spring.
Some benignant of announcement whitethorn beryllium coming soon: DOJ spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle told MIT Technology Review successful an email past week that the Justice Department is "reviewing our attack to countering threats posed by the PRC government“ and "anticipate completing the reappraisal and providing further accusation successful the coming weeks."