Gang Chen: US to drop charges against MIT scientist accused of working with Chinese government

·2-min read
Gang Chen, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, appears in this undated handout photo.  (via REUTERS)
Gang Chen, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, appears in this undated handout photo. (via REUTERS)

The US has reportedly dropped its case against MIT professor Dr Gang Chen, who faced accusations that he was working for the Chinese government in secret.

Dr Chen was arrested during former President Donald Trump’s last full week of office in 2021. His arrest came as part of what was called the “China Initiative,” a government effort aimed at stopping US scientists from leaking sensitive information or technology to China.

The scientist was accused of hiding connections to the Chinese government while applying for $2.7m worth of grants from the US Department of Energy.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The New York Times reports that prosecutors moved to drop the charges against Dr Chen on Thursday. They argued that the government “can no longer meet its burden of proof at trial.”

The US Court for the District of Massachusetts will rule on the motion in the near future.

His 2021 arrest made waves in Boston’s science and research community, and many of his colleagues accused the government of overreaching.

They claimed that the government accusations were blurring the lines between issues like mundane grant disclosures and espionage or intellectual property theft.

The US Department of Energy said that it would have awarded Dr Chen the $2.7m grant even if they had known of his ties to the China. That revelation called into question the basis of the government’s argument against Dr Chen.

The MIT researcher’s lawyer celebrated the decision.

“Today is a great day,” Robert Fisher, Dr Chen’s lawyer, said. “The government finally acknowledged what we have said all along: Professor Gang Chen is an innocent man. Our defense was never based on any legal technicalities. Our defense was this: Gang did not commit any of the offenses he was charged with. Full stop.”

The government is also reportedly reviewing Mr Trump’s “China Initiative” to determine if it is an effective strategy for protecting American research and technology.

Though the programme resulted in numerous grant fraud charges, the none have been convicted and many have been thrown out, like Dr Chen’s.

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