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A coalition of community and civil rights groups, Chinese scientific organizations, and individuals signed on to a letter urging President-elect Joe Biden to end the Department of Justice’s “China Initiative” and “take further steps necessary to combat the pervasive racial bias and targeting of Asian American and Asian immigrant scientists, researchers, and students.”

The Justice Department has prosecuted a number of university-affiliated scientists through the China Initiative, in many cases on charges related to lying on scientific grant applicants, visa applications, tax returns or other government forms. Former attorney general Jeff Sessions launched the initiative in November 2018 to combat economic espionage.

“It is appropriate for the Justice Department to take measures to address the harms caused by agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) who have engaged in economic espionage and trade secrets thefts,” says the letter, which was organized by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Brennan Center for Justice and the APA Justice Task Force. “However, naming only China in a DOJ initiative ignores threats of economic espionage by other nations. The label ‘China Initiative’ itself is as unacceptable as ‘China Virus.’”

The letter also argues that in many cases Chinese scientists are being prosecuted for federal crimes “based on administrative errors or minor offenses such as failing to fully disclose conflict of interest information to their universities or research institutions and other activities that are not normally treated as crimes except under the pretext of combating economic espionage.”