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News / The ‘China Initiative’: a ‘chilling effect’ on academics

News / The ‘China Initiative’: a ‘chilling effect’ on academics

The Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF) last month welcomed the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement that it would be ending the “China Initiative” — the controversial criminal probe of individuals, including academics, with alleged espionage links to China.

The AASF noted that the “chilling effect” of the China Initiative has been “palpable” in the scientific community. According to a recent AASF survey, which polled mostly faculty of Chinese descent across the U.S., 64% indicated that they feel unsafe as an academic researcher and 67% are considering leaving the U.S. — though 89% said that they would like to contribute to “strengthening US leadership in science and technology”.

Since the Department of Justice’s announcement in February, two recent trials underscore that U.S. government officials are still investigating and prosecuting Chinese- born academics.

Last month a University of Kansas associate professor of chemistry charged with concealing his ties to China was put on trial.

At Yale University, faculty members are upset by the University’s decision to suspend Haifan Lin, a professor of cell biology, who is said to be under investigation as part of the China Initiative.

Christopher Wray, the FBI director, has said his agency has opened more than 2,000 cases involving China, although only some involve university researchers.

The AASF is calling on the Department of Justice to take immediate action, including stopping the ongoing China Initiative investigations of academic researchers and scholars across U.S. campuses.

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