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Recommendation to Drop Charges

Federal prosecutors recommended Friday that charges against Gang Chen, a mechanical engineering professor at MIT, be dropped, the Wall Street Journal reports.

As MIT's Technology Review reports, Chen was one of the more prominent researchers to be charged as part of the China Initiative, a program aimed at countering economic espionage and other threats from China. Chen was accused of not disclosing positions he held at Chinese institutions on a US Department of Energy grant application and prosecutors further alleged the Chen pushed for a collaboration between that university and MIT that would benefit China, the Journal adds.

However, the DoE has said that, at the time of his grant application, the agency did not require such posts to be disclosed and MIT said it was aware of and supported the collaboration, the Journal reports.

This, Tech Review notes, is the latest China Initiative-fueled case to unravel. Anming Hu, a former professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, was acquitted in September. At that time, the Journal reported that that other cases had focused on fraud linked to visa or grant applications, not trade secret thefts, and that critics said the program was improperly targeting Chinese and Chinese American researchers. Science further reported in December that about two dozen US academics had been targeted by the program and said that "the government's track record in those cases is mixed."

One person, Harvard University's Charles Lieber, has been convicted in connection with the program.

Tech Review notes that the motion to dismiss has not yet been filed or approved. "[Chen] is looking forward to resolving the criminal matter as soon as possible," his attorney, Robert Fisher, tells it.