by Zhen Lanhi Lee | Reuters
A US Justice Department program aimed at protecting US technology from China dropped five indictments of Chinese scientists after a draft internal FBI analysis called into question a mainstay for the investigation, according to court documents. .
The “China Initiative” was criticized by civil liberties advocates as racially biased, and judges in several court proceedings expressed doubts about the FBI’s strategy in questioning scientists.
The US government on Thursday and Friday filed motions in federal courts to dismiss charges in five counts of Chinese researchers arrested on visa fraud charges last year. All pleaded not guilty to falsifying visa applications to conceal military ties as well as other charges.
The pace of dismissing the cases coincides with the visit of the new Biden administration’s Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to China on Sunday and Monday.
All five arrests took place nearly a year ago, when US-China relations were in dire straits and now the world’s two largest economies are trying to navigate a turbulent relationship.
The Justice Department said in a statement that it was dismissing the cases in the “interest of justice.”
Chinese officials in the US could not be immediately reached for comment on the development.
“Recent developments in some cases with alleged, undeclared ties to the People’s Liberation Army of the People’s Republic of China have prompted the Department to re-evaluate these indictments,” Justice Department spokesman Wynne Hornbuckle said in a statement. ” What were those events?
Court documents filed in two cases this month included an FBI draft analysis that questioned how useful the investigation was in protecting technology developed in the United States. The report said the visa application question regarding military service that implicated the scientists was unclear.
The analysis was written in response to the China Tech Transfer Analysis Unit at the FBI named in February for the “high impact” of the “arrest of PLA students” in February. PLA stands for Chinese Army. The leader of the FBI unit disagreed over the impact of the arrest and removed the unit from award nominations, according to court documents.
When asked about the court filing, a Justice Department official responded by email that “the draft analysis prompted follow-up questions and requests from defense attorneys that we could not resolve before Monday’s hearing date.” could.”
One of these cases was due to start from Monday. The official said that in most cases the punishment would be one year or less and the defendants have been restricted their liberty for the time being whether in jail or on bail.
Defense lawyers have said their clients’ only “crime” is running away from US-China politics.
John Heiman, lawyer for Chinese brain researcher Song Chen, said he was “grateful and relieved” that the case against him had been dismissed and that “the government has done the right thing.”