Updated Jan 21, 2022 - World

Feds move to drop fraud charges against MIT professor

The U.S. Department of Justice seal on a podium in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

The U.S. Department of Justice seal on a podium in Washington, D.C. Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal prosecutors on Thursday moved to drop a case against a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who was accused of hiding research he did for the Chinese government.

Driving the news: "Having assessed the evidence as a whole ... the government can no longer meet its burden of proof at trial," prosecutors wrote in a motion to dismiss on Thursday.

  • Prosecutors said that recent developments in the Justice Department's investigation of the case against Gang Chen, a Chinese American nanoscientist, prompted them to move to drop the case.
  • Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts is expected to rule on the motion soon, the New York Times reports.
  • In June of last year, a case against Chinese Canadian researcher Anming Hu ended in a mistrial after an FBI agent said he used a Google-translated webpage to implicate Hu as having ties to the Chinese military, Axios' Shawna Chen reports.

Catch up quick: Chen was arrested and charged with grant fraud on Jan. 14, 2021.

  • Chen's high-profile arrest drew pushback from many of his colleagues in academia, who say the prosecutions of academics who failed to disclose China ties is too harsh, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian reports.

The big picture: Chen is one of dozens of academics and researchers arrested under the China Initiative, which was launched by the Trump administration in November 2018 amid rising concerns about China's economic espionage and intelligence activities.

What he's saying: "There is no winner in what seems to me a politically and racially motivated prosecution," Chen wrote in opinion piece published Friday in the Boston Globe.

  • "My reputation is tarnished, my family suffered, my institute lost the service of a professor ... the ability of the United States to attract talents from around the world has plummeted, and the scientific community is terrified."
  • "While I am relieved that my case has been dropped 'in the interests of justice,' I respectfully request a thorough review of this matter by Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice to hold individuals accountable for this glaring misconduct," Chen wrote.

Go deeper: Top DOJ official John Demers on the agency's China Initiative

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from Gang Chen.

Go deeper