Lawmakers Demand DOJ Explain Dropping of Cases Against Chinese Researchers Accused of Hiding Military Ties
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, has asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to explain why prosecutors have dropped a series of cases connected with the Justice Department’s (DOJ) crackdown on Chinese espionage.
In July, federal prosecutors filed motions to dismiss charges against six Chinese researchers who had been accused of hiding their ties to Chinese institutions or the Chinese military. The DOJ said at the time that “recent developments” in those cases had prompted the department to “re-evaluate these prosecutions,” stating that the dismissals were made “in the interest of justice.”
However, other reports have suggested that the decision to drop the charges was due to other reasons, such as the FBI’s failure to properly inform the accused of their rights against self-incrimination, Jordan wrote to Garland in a joint letter (pdf) with Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) dated Sept. 27.
“It is not clear whether the Department dismissed these [charges] due to reported misconduct by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or because the Department under your leadership is more invested in pursuing the far-left political goals of the Biden-Harris Administration than in protecting American national security interests,” the letter reads.
“These actions by the Department raise serious concerns about its commitment to confronting the national security threats posed by the People’s Republic of China.”
The letter comes days after the DOJ struck a deal with Huawei Chief Financial officer Meng Wanzhou allowing her to return to China, nearly three years after the executive was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. prosecutors who had accused Meng of lying to HSBC, causing the bank to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran. The deal, which paved the way for the release of two Canadians held in China, has similarly prompted Republican lawmakers to question the Biden administration’s approach to confronting threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In recent years, the DOJ has, under a project called the “China Initiative,” aggressively pursued cases targeting the CCP’s expansive campaign of economic espionage against the United States. Academics, in particular, for the first time found themselves in the crosshairs over allegedly hiding their funding ties to the Chinese regime.
In 2020, there were at least six prosecutions against alleged undercover Chinese military officers posing as researchers at U.S. universities. But the department moved to drop five of those cases in July.
One of the cases was against Tang Juan, a researcher at the University of California–Davis, who allegedly hid her affiliations with the Chinese military in her visa application. She was arrested in July 2020 after being harbored by the Chinese Consulate in San Franciso for one month, according to prosecutors.
In another dropped case, the researcher, according to prosecutors, admitted under questioning by federal agents that he was instructed by his supervisor, the director of an unnamed military university lab in China, to “observe the layout of the UCSF [University of California–San Franciso] lab and bring back information on how to replicate it in China.”
In the letter, Jordan and Biggs requested the attorney general to provide details by Oct. 11 on why the department decided to drop the cases. The lawmakers also asked for information on the China Initiative, including the project’s staffing and resources and whether the department has any plans to “reform, prioritize, or reinforce its duties and responsibilities.”
“Especially at a time when President Biden’s disastrous foreign policy in Afghanistan has alienated allies and alarmed Americans, our country cannot afford the threat to the United States posed by Chinese espionage,” the letter reads.
DOJ officials didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.