U.S. Moves to Drop Cases Against Chinese Researchers

U.S. Moves to Drop Cases Against Chinese Researchers

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department moved this week to drop cases that it brought last year against five visiting researchers accused of hiding their ties to China’s military, prompting questions about the department’s efforts to combat Chinese national security threats.

The department filed motions on Thursday and Friday to dismiss visa fraud and other charges it brought last summer against the researchers as the Biden administration grapples with holding Beijing accountable for its cyberattacks and its harsh crackdowns in Hong Kong and in the far western region of Xinjiang. The dismissals also come as the State De­part­ment’s No. 2 of­fi­cial, Wendy R. Sher­man, is to meet in the coming days with Chinese officials in Tianjin, China.

“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,” said Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, offering few specifics. “We have determined that it is now in the interest of justice to dismiss them.”

The arrests were part of a spate of cases last summer involving researchers and academics who had ties to China as the Trump administration aggressively sought to curb Beijing’s efforts to steal intellectual property, corporate secrets, military intelligence and other information it could use to expand its global influence. At the time, the United States ordered China to close its Hous­ton con­sulate, accusing it of being a hub for “massive illegal spying and influence operations.” China denied the allegations and retaliated by forcing a U.S. consulate in Chengdu to close.

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