BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: U.S. District Judge Patti B. Saris granted federal prosecutors’ request to drop all charges against Professor Gang Chen
Boston, MA - Yesterday, federal prosecutors in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts dropped all charges against Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) mechanical engineering professor Gang Chen. The Government is seeking a dismissal exactly one year after Dr. Chen was first indicted for allegedly failing to disclose ties to China on a Department of Energy grant application. Civil rights groups, the scientific and academic community, and the Asian American community decried the treatment of Dr. Chen and many other Asian American and immigrant scientists under the Justice Department’s “China Initiative,” which has faced serious concerns of targeting and profiling Asian American and immigrants across the country.
John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, issues the following statement:
“We commend the decision of federal prosecutors to seek dismissal of all charges against Dr. Gang Chen. We hope this case marks a turning point within the Justice Department to make substantive and fundamental changes to address concerns of racial profiling from Asian American and immigrant communities. This well-reasoned decision seeking to dismiss all charges results from the prosecutors' openness to receiving new information, careful review of the facts, and their ultimate determination that they are unable to meet their burden of proof at trial. Decisions in the interest of justice, such as this one, are necessary for many more “China Initiative” cases that have disproportionately impacted Asian American and immigrant scientists and researchers.
Although communities across the country express a deep sigh of relief, we cannot forget the life-long consequences this injustice has had on Dr. Chen and his family. While defending himself from the government’s charges, Dr. Chen’s career and life grinded to a halt. He and his family have been put through incredible stress. Dr. Chen’s case is indicative of how fundamentally flawed the Justice Department’s “China Initiative” is. The “China Initiative” has strayed far from its alleged goal of prosecuting economic espionage and trade secret theft from China, and has increasingly targeted Asian American academics for allegedly failing to disclose ties to China when the government’s own disclosure requirements were unclear. By 2020, over half of newly announced “China Initiative” cases involved questions of “research integrity,” rather than national security concerns. Many of these cases have not only fallen apart but revealed allegations from Asian defendants against FBI agents of misconduct as the agency sought to bolster weak cases.
We call on the government to take action beyond a review of individual cases. There must be an overhaul of our current system that has incentivized prosecutors and agents to increase the number of convictions rather than pursue justice. This has driven targeting based on ethnicity rather than criminal activity resulting in widespread fear of racial targeting and profiling that feels all too familiar to the Asian American community. Like Dr. Chen, Asian Americans have had their “loyalty” questioned and been subjected to misguided scrutiny for centuries under the pretext of national security. We must continue to ensure that the injustice that happened to Dr. Chen and his family does not happen again. To live up to our American ideals, it is long past time to end the “China Initiative.”