WASHINGTON The Justice Department decided this week to drop cases it initiated last year against five visiting scholars accused of hiding their links with the Chinese military, prompting questions about the department’s efforts to fight against threats to Chinese national security.
The department on Thursday and Friday filed motions to dismiss visa fraud and other charges brought against researchers last summer as the Biden administration works to hold Beijing accountable for its cyber attacks and harsh crackdowns on Hong Kong and in the far west of Xinjiang. The layoffs also come as State Department No. 2 official Wendy R. Sherman is due to meet with Chinese officials in Tianjin, China in the coming days.
Recent developments in a handful of cases involving defendants with suspected and undisclosed connections to the People’s Liberation Army of the People’s Republic of China have prompted the ministry to reassess these prosecutions, said Wyn Hornbuckle, spokesperson for the People’s Republic of China. Department of Justice, offering few details. We have determined that it is now in the interests of justice to dismiss them.
The arrests were part of a string of cases last summer involving researchers and academics with ties to China as the Trump administration aggressively sought to curb Beijing’s efforts to steal intellectual property, secrets corporate, military intelligence and other information it could use to expand its global market influence. At the time, the United States ordered China to shut down its Houston consulate, accusing it of being a hub of massive illegal espionage and influence operations. China has denied the claims and retaliated by forcing a US consulate in Chengdu to close.
As part of the Trump-era initiative, the Justice Department has prosecuted people affiliated with the Chinese government for major computer breaches and economic espionage. He also cracked down on China’s efforts to train and influence academics at US colleges and research centers, arresting academics accused of inappropriately sharing technical expertise and other research.
Officials said more than 1,000 researchers affiliated with the Chinese military left the United States after the arrests last summer.
Mr Hornbuckle said the latest motions do not reflect a move away from the initiative and that the department continues to place a very high priority on addressing the Beijing threat to US research security and the academic integrity.
Among the five scientists arrested was an oncologist named Tang Juan, who was indicted last July and whose trial was due to open Monday in the Eastern District of California.
Tang Juan was one of five researchers arrested. His trial was scheduled to begin Monday in the Eastern District of California.Credit … Department of Justice, via Associated Press
A federal court upheld the Justice Department’s request to dismiss Ms Tangs’ case on Friday, weeks after a judge found the FBI had not informed her that she had the right to not not incriminate himself and dismissed the accusation of misrepresenting the ministry.
The case was complicated by a draft FBI analysis released this year that said it could not show a clear connection between the people who scrambled their ties to China, as she and the other four defendants were accused of having done so, and those who illegally transferred information to the campaign.
A senior Justice Ministry official said the analysis prompted the defense attorney to raise issues the ministry could not resolve until Ms. Tangs’ trial began.
The department also determined that the maximum sentence for visa fraud charges is one year or less in prison, and given that Ms. Tang and the other defendants had previously been imprisoned or had their freedom restricted for about a year. while awaiting trial, they had essentially served their sentences.
The department’s motions to dismiss the cases against Guan Lei, Wang Xin, Song Chen and Zhao Kaikai are pending in federal courts in California and Indiana.
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