U.S. withdraws investigation into allegations of visa fraud by Chinese scientists Reuters

By Jane Lanhee Lee

(Reuters)-According to court documents, after the FBI internal analysis draft questioned the main premise of the investigation, a US Department of Justice plan to protect American technology from China’s influence cancelled five prosecutions against Chinese scientists.

The “China Initiative” was criticized by civil liberties advocates as being racially biased. In several court proceedings, judges expressed doubts about the FBI’s strategy of interrogating scientists.

On Thursday and Friday, the US government filed a motion in the Federal Court to dismiss the five cases of Chinese researchers arrested for visa fraud last year. All pleaded not guilty to forging visa applications to conceal military relations and other charges.

The motion to dismiss the case coincided with the visit of Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State of Biden’s new administration, to China on Sunday and Monday.

All five arrests occurred about a year ago, when U.S.-China relations were at a low point, and now the two largest economies in the world are seeking solutions to their troubled relationship.

The Justice Department said in a statement that it is dismissing these cases for “justice.”

The Chinese official in the United States could not be immediately reached for comment on the development.

Wyn Hornbuckle, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said in a statement: “The progress of several recent cases involving the defendant, which are suspected of having undisclosed links with the People’s Liberation Army, prompted the Ministry of Justice to reassess. These prosecutions are what these developments are.

The court documents filed in two cases this month include a draft FBI analysis that questioned the usefulness of the investigation in protecting technology developed in the United States. According to the report, the issue of military service visa applications that bothered scientists is still unclear.

This analysis report is in response to the FBI’s China Technology Transfer Analysis Team being nominated in February for the “significant impact” of the “arrest of PLA students.” PLA refers to the Chinese Army. According to court documents, the head of the FBI department disagreed with the impact of the arrest and removed the department from the award nomination.

When asked about court documents, a Justice Department official replied via email, “The analysis draft has triggered follow-up questions and requests from defense lawyers. We cannot resolve these issues before Monday’s trial date.”

One of the cases is scheduled to start on Monday. The official said that in most cases, the sentence will be one year or less, and the defendant’s freedom during this period will be restricted, whether in prison or out of bail.

Defense lawyers stated that the only “crime” of their client was conflict with U.S.-China politics.

John Herman, a lawyer for Chinese brain researcher Song Chen, said they were “grateful and gratified” that her case was dismissed and that “the government did the right thing.”

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