US Drops Charges Against Researchers Accused Of Hiding Affiliation With Chinese Military

(Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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The Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped cases against five researchers accused of hiding their ties to the Chinese military Friday.

The five researchers were arrested in July of 2020 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in an effort to root out Chinese intelligence-gathering efforts at American universities. The trial for visiting researcher Tang Juan was set to begin Monday, but FBI analysts were concerned about the value of the cases after parts had to be dismissed due to agents not properly informing the suspects of their rights, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The FBI reportedly kicked of its effort after another researcher, Wang Xin, told authorities he lied about his military service on a visa application to gain entry to the country. He said he had been told by a supervisor to bring information back to China from the U.S.

After Wang revealed his purpose for being in the U.S., China’s consulate in Houston was shut down. American officials say it was being used to help visiting researchers evade law enforcement scrutiny. (RELATED: REPORT: Huawei Hires Veteran Democratic Lobbyist Tony Podesta)

More than 1,000 researchers affiliated with the Chinese military have left since, according to the WSJ. A senior Justice Department official reportedly said that “recent developments” in the cases of the researchers prompted the department to dismiss the charges. The visa fraud-related crimes the researchers were being charged with carried prison sentences of only a few months, and the suspects had been detained in the U.S. for a year now since their arrest, preventing their departure from the country.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to China for a face-to-face meeting with top Chinese Communist Party officials next week. The DOJ official told the WSJ the dismissal of the charges had nothing to do with the upcoming meeting.

Attorneys for the visiting researchers reportedly said the exchange of information was part of a longstanding tradition of academic collaboration between the U.S. and China, not a CCP military plan.

The Trump administration ramped up prosecution of alleged Chinese spies at U.S. academic institutions, resulting in several Chinese academics pleading guilty to hiding ties with the CCP in recent years, according to the WSJ.