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The United States Department of Justice on Friday dropped its cases against five Chinese researchers accused of having ties to the Chinese military.
A trial for one of the researchers was supposed to start on Monday, but judges found that the FBI had not informed them of their Fifth Amendment rights before interviewing them.
According to The Wall Street Journal, “in brief court filings late Thursday and Friday, prosecutors said they would no longer pursue visa fraud [or] other charges against” researchers Tang Juan, Chen Song, Guan Lei, and Zhao Kaika as well as one other unnamed individual.
The researchers had reportedly been working in the areas of cancer, neurology, and artificial intelligence research.
FBI’s counterintelligence division wrote in a draft memo that while some scientists may have had ties to China’s People’s Liberation Army, no definite proof could be brought that they were soldiers or that they transferred data.
The memo said that, “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.”
A DOJ spokesman, Wyn Hornbuckle, announced the dismissal of cases in a statement: “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.”
Hornbuckle added 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.”