The Biden administration’s Department of Justice dropped criminal cases against five Chinese researchers on July 23, pending the Trump administration.
A Justice Department spokesman announced the dismissal of cases to the public in a statement that provided, “In all of our prosecutions, the Department of Justice evaluates the merits of a case as it prepares for trial. Recent developments in a handful of cases involving defendants with alleged, undisclosed ties to the People’s Liberation Army of the People’s Republic of China have prompted the Department to re-evaluate these prosecutions, and we have determined that it is now in the interest of justice to dismiss them.”
The Wall Street Journal reported, “in brief court filings late Thursday and Friday, prosecutors said they would no longer pursue visa fraud or other charges against” the five researchers. The trial against one of the Chinese defendants was scheduled to begin on July 26.
The defendants were reportedly in the U.S. working on research on cancer, neurology, and artificial intelligence. The criminal cases that were pending alleged that the defendants had ties to the Chinese military.
One case alleged that a defendant lied about her military ties in a visa application and that the government had found photos of her dressed in military uniform along with articles published in China detailing her military affiliation.
Last July, the Chinese academics were arrested after another researcher told agents that he had lied about his military service in China on his visa application. He also said that the Chinese government had told him to gather information while inside the U.S.
The FBI had prepared a memo on the case that found “no definite proof” that could be presented that the defendants were active members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
The FBI wrote, “while this indicates a potentially institutionalized indifference to U.S. visa policies, especially with respect to the civilian cadre, it remains an unreliable indicator of nefarious obfuscation of one’s military affiliations, and even less of an indicator of technology transfer activity.”
In commenting on dropping the cases, the Justice Department spokesman stated that the DOJ “continues to place a very high priority on countering the threat posed to American research security and academic integrity by the People’s Republic of China government’s agenda and policies.”