In an additional blow to the China Initiative, prosecutors transfer to dismiss a excessive profile case


A yr later, Chen was arrested on suspicions of federal grant fraud and publicly accused of disloyalty to the US—a cost usually leveled in espionage circumstances, not grant fraud, as Chen’s protection workforce identified in its attempt to formally sanction the US Attorney’s Office for the assertion. Chen was finally charged with three counts of wire fraud, false statements, and a failure to file a report on a international checking account. 

But the guts of the case was whether or not the nanotechnologist had disclosed contracts, appointments, and awards from entities within the People’s Republic of China, together with a Chinese expertise program and greater than $19 million in funding from the Chinese authorities, whereas receiving federal grant funding from the Department of Energy. 

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That query turned much less essential when a Department of Energy official confirmed that grant necessities in 2017, when Chen submitted his software, didn’t stipulate that he should disclose posts in China, however that disclosure wouldn’t have affected his grants, because the Wall Street Journal first reported.

The cash on the centerpiece of the fraud allegations—$25 million—was meant for MIT to assist a brand new collaborative analysis heart at China’s Southern University of Science and Technology, quite than Chen individually. “While Professor Chen is its inaugural MIT faculty director, this is not an individual collaboration; it is a departmental one, supported by the Institute,” MIT President Raphael Reif defined in a letter to the MIT neighborhood final yr.

As one of the outstanding scientists charged underneath the initiative, Chen’s case obtained widespread consideration. MIT college members wrote an open letter supporting the scholar that additionally mirrored the broader considerations of the tutorial neighborhood in regards to the criminalization of ordinary educational exercise. “In many respects, the complaint against Gang Chen is a complaint against all of us, an affront to any citizen who values science and the scientific enterprise,” they wrote. 

What subsequent?

With Chen’s expenses all however sure to be dismissed, six extra analysis integrity circumstances stay pending. Four are scheduled to go to trial later this spring. Meanwhile, an rising variety of disparate teams, from scientific associations, civil rights organizations, lawmakers and even former officials involved in shaping the program have been calling for both an finish to this system, or at the very least the focusing on of lecturers. 

The Justice Department is “reviewing our approach to countering threats posed by the PRC government,” division spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle instructed MIT Technology Review in an e-mail. “We anticipate completing the review and providing additional information in the coming weeks.” He referred questions on Chen’s case to the US Attorney’s Office in Boston, which has not but responded to a request for remark.

Meanwhile, on January 4 the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy printed updated guidance on strengthening protections for American analysis and improvement towards international interference, which included further particulars on disclosure necessities for principal investigators.

As for Chen, “He is looking forward to resolving the criminal matter as soon as possible,”his legal professional, Robert Fisher, instructed MIT Technology Review.

Additional reporting by Jess Aloe. 

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