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Unfair Targeting

A new report examining economic espionage cases says the US has been unfairly targeting Chinese and Chinese-American individuals, Technology Review reports.

The US launched the China Initiative in 2018 to uncover acts of economic espionage, with a focus on universities. This sparked hundreds of investigations across the country, but also raised questions of racism as most investigations centered on individuals of Chinese ancestry.

In a new report, the Committee of 100, an association of prominent Chinese Americans, reviews 190 economic espionage-associated cases with 276 defendants in the US between 1996 and 2020. In that time frame, they found that 46 percent of defendants charged under the Economic Espionage Act were accused of stealing secrets that would benefit people or organizations in China, and 42 percent were accused of stealing secrets that would benefit Americans. Additionally, the report says that 89 percent of Western defendants were convicted of economic espionage, but that 74 percent of defendants with Asian names, including US citizens, were.

Mike German, a former FBI special agent and current fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, tells Tech Review that this difference in conviction rates is "strong evidence that the Justice Department is levying charges with less evidence, perhaps counting on the bias they're fomenting with their anti-China rhetoric to get judges and juries to convict anyway."