One year and six days after he was arrested by the FBI, the criminal charges against Chinese-American scientist Chen Gang, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, were finally dismissed by a judge at a local court in Massachusetts.
The failure of the government to prove its case deals another heavy blow to the so-called "China Action Plan" launched by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2018, under which framework about 20 Chinese-American scholars have faced criminal charges.
Rather than proving the claim that the scientists were a threat to national security, the action plan has proved to be an unforgettable folly. By focusing on a specific group of scientists because of their ethnicity on alleged research allegiance issues, such as hiding ties or funding from Chinese entities on grant or visa forms, the initiative, that was launched by the previous Donald Trump administration to supposedly counter economic espionage, has become nothing more than the victimization of Chinese-American academics.
While there is no way to know exactly what was going on in the heads of the U.S. decision-makers when they came up with the plan, the fact that it was launched in 2018 provides some pointers. That was the year when the U.S. government launched trade frictions with China and pushed Sino-U.S. relations to a new low. Chinese enterprises such as the telecommunications company Huawei were subject to a witch hunt by U.S. politicians, while Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer, was detained in Canada with the long-arm of the U.S. Department of Justice acting extraterritorially.
It is with the same sense of antagonism that certain politicians in the U.S. launched the "China Action Plan", which has humiliated them and the U.S. government as a whole. Of the 20 Chinese-American scientists facing charges, at least eight, including Chen, have had the charges dropped against them.
Data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs show that over 2,000 scholars from all universities in the U.S. sent joint letters to the U.S. Secretary of Justice opposing the plan; 192 Yale professors co-signed a letter to him, questioning the fatal deficiencies of it, and over 20 Asian groups sent letters to the White House demanding an end to the discriminatory campaign.
The U.S. government should belatedly heed their voices.