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Justice Department drops case against MIT professor accused of ties to China

The Justice Department dropped its case Thursday against a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor charged last year with concealing research ties to the Chinese government, saying it could no longer meet its burden of proof at trial.

The department revealed its decision in the case against Gang Chen in a terse, single-page filing in federal court in Boston.

U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, the top federal prosecutor in the state, said the move was “in the interests of justice” and was the result of new information the government had received about the allegations.

Chen was accused last year of concealing ties to Beijing while also collecting U.S. dollars for his nanotechnology research. His lawyers have said he did nothing wrong.

In a statement Thursday, defense attorney Robert Fisher called the case a “wayward prosecution” and said his client was eager to return to work.

“Our defense was this: Gang did not commit any of the offenses he was charged with. Full stop. He was never in a talent program. He was never an overseas scientist for Beijing. He disclosed everything he was supposed to disclose and he never lied to the government or anyone else,” Fisher said in a statement.

The move comes as the Justice Department nears completion of an internal review of its investigations and prosecutions of university professors in the United States accused of concealing their ties to China.

Those investigations are part of the China Initiative, a Justice Department effort launched during the Trump administration to crack down on Chinese economic espionage and trade secret theft. Critics of the efforts have called on the Justice Department to end its pursuit of Chinese academics.

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