In an unexpected move and a major setback to the critical effort to root out alleged Chinese intelligence-gathering in the U.S., the Biden Justice Department has asked the courts to drop charges against four researchers at California universities, and another in Indiana, accused of hiding their ties to the Chinese military. They were all part of a major crackdown by Team Trump on Chinese espionage and other subversive activities against the United States.
Prosecutors no said they would no longer pursue visa fraud and other charges against the Chinese scientists with ties to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The four include three biomedical and cancer researchers in California and a doctoral candidate studying artificial intelligence in Indiana. This move deals a dramatic blow to U.S. efforts to battle Beijing’s efforts to steal U.S. national security and business secrets.
The Wall Street Journal reported that:
One of the visiting scientists, Tang Juan, had been scheduled to go to trial on Monday. Court papers filed in her case earlier this week show some Federal Bureau of Investigation analysts casting doubt on the value of the cases. Judges had dismissed parts of the cases against Ms. Tang and another researcher in recent weeks after finding that FBI agents hadn’t properly informed them of their rights against self-incrimination when interviewing them.
The academics had been arrested last July in an FBI sweep that began after another researcher, Wang Xin, acknowledged to law enforcement—as he tried to leave the U.S.—that he had lied about his military service on his visa application to boost his chances of gaining admission to the U.S., and had been tasked with bringing back some information by a supervisor.
The U.S. ordered China to close its Houston consulate at the time, sending relations between the two countries to their lowest point in at least three decades and prompting the Chinese to order a U.S. consulate closed. The State Department cited evidence that allegedly showed consular officials helping visiting researchers evade scrutiny.
The Journal added that “The Trump administration embarked on an aggressive effort to target rising concerns among U.S. authorities that American taxpayers are unwittingly funding Chinese scientific development and boosting China’s drive for global pre-eminence.” Soon after this crackdown, more than 1,000 Chinese military-affiliated researchers left the U.S., according to U.S. officials.
The Los Angeles Times reported that:
Justice Department officials had said that such prosecutions were an important part of their efforts to stop China from pilfering U.S. technology. The decision to drop the cases came after defense lawyers in the Sacramento case obtained FBI memos in which analysts raised questions about the value of such prosecutions. Though federal prosecutors in court papers dismissed the evidentiary value of the memos, they did not believe they could resolve questions about the records by the scheduled start of Tang’s trial on Monday and, so, decided to dismiss the case.
Justice Department officials said they decided to drop the other three cases in California — and a fifth in Indiana — because the legal and factual issues were similar and the researchers faced little prison time if convicted.
Despite the increasing evidence that Chinese nationals are directed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-led regime to spy for them when overseas, and evidence of Chinese intelligence services targeting Chinese Americans, especially those with familial or other close ties to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to spy for them as well, some critics claim the focus on Chinese spies and collaborators endangers innocent Asian Americans.
And the U.S. scientific community has also increasingly criticized the government’s effort. Many believe Biden’s DOJ is more worried about these political concerns than the concerns of the national security community over CCP/PLA spying. And this is why the cases are being dropped. ADN