WASHINGTON – The Ministry of Justice cancels the name of the Trump-era initiative aimed at combating economic espionage by Beijing, but is criticized as unfairly targeting Chinese teachers of American colleges because of their ethnicity.
The decision to refuse Chinese initiative, announced Wednesday as a senior official in the Department of Homeland Security, following a months-long review following allegations that the program cools academic cooperation and promotes anti-Asian bias. The department has also experienced high-profile setbacks in some criminal prosecutions, which led to the termination of many criminal cases against researchers last year.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said the department would “relentlessly defend our country from China” but would no longer group its investigations and prosecutions under the label China Initiative, in part because of its recognition of US threats from Russia and Iran. . , North Korea and others outside of China.
“I am convinced that we need a broader approach that addresses all these threats and uses all our authorities to combat them,” he told reporters before a speech in which he planned to outline the changes.
The program was established in 2018 under the leadership of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a way to thwart what officials said were China’s aggressive efforts to steal American intellectual property and spy on American industry and research.
Olsen told reporters he believes the initiative was caused by genuine national security concerns. He said he did not believe investigators targeted professors on the basis of ethnicity, but he also said he should respond to concerns he had heard, including from Asian American groups.
“Anything that gives the impression that the Department of Justice applies different standards based on race or ethnicity is detrimental to the department and our efforts, and it is detrimental to the public,” Olsen said.
The initiative resulted in verdicts, including against hackers accused of hacking into networks of American companies. However, this has become largely due to efforts to investigate professors of American universities for concealing ties with the Chinese government over applications for federal grants.
Federal prosecutors are expected to continue to prosecute fraud cases against researchers if there is evidence of malicious intent, serious fraud, and links to economic and national security, and prosecutors from the Department of Homeland Security in Washington have a oversight role. In some cases, prosecutors may choose civil or administrative decisions rather than criminal charges.
Wednesday’s announcement came after several cases in which the department either rejected its own prosecutions or were rejected by judges.
In January, the cafe stopped his case against Gan Chen, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is accused in the last days of the Trump administration. Prosecutors have concluded that they can no longer carry the burden of proof after receiving information from the Ministry of Energy indicating that they were not required to disclose certain information in their forms.
In September, a federal judge dismissed all charges against a University of Tennessee professor accused of concealing his relationship with a Chinese university while receiving research grants from NASA, and the university has since offered to reinstate him.
Olsen said the department continues to support cases pending against professors and researchers.
FBI Director Christopher Ray said in a speech last month that the threat from China was “more brazen” than ever, and that the FBI is opening new cases every 12 hours to counter Chinese intelligence operations.
“I don’t take any tools from the table here,” Olsen said. In a speech at the Antonino Scalia Law School at George Mason University, he noted that despite the diverse range of threats, “it is clear that the Chinese government stands apart.”
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