Justice Department ends Trump-era initiative to stem threats from China

ARLINGTON, Va. The Justice Department said on Wednesday it was ending a controversial Trump-era effort to combat China’s national security threats that critics say have been unfairly targeted. to professors of Asian descent.

A top Justice Department official, Matthew G. Olsen, said in remarks at George Mason University’s National Security Institute that the agency would instead lay out a broader strategy to combat against threats from hostile countries, will extend beyond China to include countries such as Russia, Iran. and North Korea.

“By grouping cases according to the China Initiative rubric, we helped give rise to the harmful perception that the department applied a lower standard to investigation and prosecution,” said Mr. Olsen. offense related to that country or us in some way watching people. have a distinct racial, ethnic or familial relationship to China. ”

The end of the program means the Justice Department will drop the China Initiative designation and set higher standards for prosecuting academics and researchers who lie to the government about Chinese affiliates. Country.

The move comes a year after civil rights advocates, business groups and universities first raised concerns with the Biden administration that the program had chilled scientific research and contributed part of the anti-Asian wave.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland personally called some of those advocates Wednesday to brief them on a summary of the changes, according to people who spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal the details of those calls.

But the end of the initiative does not mean that Beijing is no longer a significant national security threat. The Chinese government continues to use espionage, cyberattacks, intellectual property theft, and propaganda to challenge the United States’ position as the world’s leading economic and military power. only getting more and more serious.

Mr. Olsen said a “more comprehensive approach” to addressing the alarming rise in illegal activity from other hostile states, reflects the fact that “no single threat is unique”. against a single enemy”.

Among the cases the Justice Department has prosecuted are efforts by governments in China, Iran and Belarus to punish dissidents abroad. It exposed efforts by Russia, China, Malaysia, and Pakistan to use covert influence to undermine American political discourse. And it accused hackers of conducting malicious cyber campaigns on behalf of China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.

However, Mr. Olsen noted that Beijing’s incursions were brazen and more damaging, posing an “inseparable” national security threat.

The China Initiative was established in 2018 to address those dangers, bringing cases of espionage, trade secret theft, and cybercrime under a single banner. In a way, it is a continuation of efforts made under the Bush and Obama administrations.

But civil rights leaders and members of Congress opposed the name China Initiative, which they believe promoted intolerance and prejudice against Asian Americans at the time. where hate crimes against Asians are on the rise.

And the initiative’s work against espionage, theft, and computer hacking has been overshadowed by prosecutions against academics who failed to disclose the fact that they had financial or other links to the organizations. Chinese institutions when they apply for federal government subsidies. The prosecutions aim to deter people from hiding foreign links and get schools and researchers to impose stricter disclosure policies.

Several circumstances led to convictions, including Harvard chemistry professor Charles Lieber in December. But the Justice Department has lost or withdrawn several such cases, prompting critics to say that all Asian professors working in the United States have been unjustly targeted for investigation, and have not encourage scientific research and academic cooperation.

In a high profile fiasco, prosecutors withdrawal fee against Gang Chena professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, after the Department of Energy said his undisclosed links to China would not affect his grant application.

Shortly after taking office in October, Mr. Olsen began a three-month review of the China Initiative, which included interviews with the FBI and other intelligence agencies, research agencies, academic institutions, and more. , representatives of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and members. Congressional.

His decision to drop the initiative’s name and reclassify China-related national security cases back into the national security department’s overall mandate reflects these criticisms.

“We have heard concerns from the civil rights community that the China Initiative has fueled a narrative of intolerance and bias,” Mr. Olsen said. “For many people, that story suggests that the Justice Department treats people from China or people of Chinese descent differently.”

Mr Olsen said his review did not find that bias or prejudice fueled cases of funding fraud. “During my review, I have never seen any indication, without, that any decision made by the Department of Justice is based on prejudice or prejudice of any kind. which consciousness.”

However, he said he shares concern that those cases, and the initiative more broadly, have created a perception of judicial treatment.

Going forward, the department will use all of its enforcement tools, including civil lawsuits, to address the potential for funding fraud. He said the department would uphold prosecutions of defendants who appeared to pose a national security threat. He declined to discuss what would happen with pending funding fraud cases.

Some Republicans have criticized the changes, saying they indicate the Biden administration will not effectively counter Chinese government aggression, despite Mr. Olsen’s vow to continue. do like that.

Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, said that the Biden administration had dropped the initiative “because they thought it was racist,” but that the Chinese government had “turned students and researchers studying in the United States as a foreign spy.”

Representative Judy Chu, a California Democrat who was among the lawmakers who pressed the Justice Department to amend the initiative, welcomed the changes. The show, she said, encourages racial analysis and reinforces the stereotype that Asian Americans are “permanent people” who cannot be trusted.

Ms. Chu said in a statement.

“By focusing solely on China despite ongoing threats from countries like Iran and Russia, this initiative shows that China is a unique existential threat to the United States,” she said. , which we know has led to more violence.” Justice Department ends Trump-era initiative to stem threats from China

Fry Electronics Team

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