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U.S. Dismisses Charges Against MIT Professor

January 21, 2022

The U.S. government dismissed charges against Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Gang Chen, who had been indicted on fraud-related charges for allegedly failing to disclose Chinese affiliations.

Chen was arrested just over one year ago, during the final days of the Trump administration, one of a number of scholars prosecuted for alleged nondisclosures of Chinese affiliations or funding sources under the auspices of the Department of Justice’s controversial China Initiative, launched by the Trump administration in 2018.

Since his arrest, another researcher charged under the China Initiative was acquitted, and the government moved to dismiss at least five other cases. Another professor charged under the initiative, Harvard University chemistry chair Charles Lieber, was convicted last month of lying to federal authorities about his participation in a Chinese talent program and failing to disclose the income on his taxes.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Rachael S. Rollins said in a statement the dismissal of charges against Chen “was in the interests of justice.”

Rollins said that prosecutors had “recently obtained additional information pertaining to the materiality of Professor Chen’s alleged omissions in the context of the grant review process at issue in this case.”

“After a careful assessment of this new information in the context of all the evidence, our office has concluded that we can no longer meet our burden of proof at trial,” she said.

“The government finally acknowledged what we said all along: Professor Gang Chen is an innocent man,” Robert Fisher, Chen’s attorney, said in a written statement. “Our defense was never based on any legal technicalities. 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 thanked MIT and the MIT community for standing by Chen and also thanked “the many witnesses who came forward and told the government how badly they misunderstood the details surrounding scientific and academic collaboration.”

“After fighting this wayward prosecution for the past year, Gang is excited to get back to the teaching and the science he loves so dearly,” Fisher said.

MIT president L. Rafael Reif celebrated the dismissal of the case.

“All of us who know Gang are deeply relieved,” Reif said. “Gang was first detained at Logan Airport about six weeks before the pandemic struck our community; the burdens on him and his family members since then have been beyond imagining.”

“Having had faith in Gang from the beginning, we can all be grateful for a just outcome to a damaging process,” Reif said. “We are eager for his full return to our community.”

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