The Justice Department dropped its case Thursday against a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor charged with concealing research ties to the Chinese government, saying it could “no longer meet its burden of proof at trial.” The department disclosed its decision in the case against Gang Chen in federal court in Boston, reports the Associated Press. U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said the move was “in the interests of justice” and was the result of new information the government had received about the allegations.
The outcome is a further setback to the Justice Department’s pursuit of academics in the U.S. accused of concealing research relationships with China. The move comes as DOJ completes a review of the China Initiative, an effort it launched during the Trump administration to crack down on Chinese economic espionage and trade secret theft. Critics say the initiative has unduly targeted researchers based on ethnicity. Chen was accused of concealing ties to Beijing while collecting U.S. dollars for his nanotechnology research. Prosecutors accused him of entering into undisclosed contracts and appointments with Chinese entities, including acting as an “overseas expert” for the Chinese government at the request of the People’s Republic of China Consulate Office in New York. Many of those roles were “expressly intended to further the PRC’s scientific and technological goals,” authorities said. Despite a conviction last month of a Harvard professor on charges that he hid his ties to a Chinese-run recruitment program, other high-profile cases have faltered.