Researcher Accused of Concealing China Ties Acquitted
A former University of Tennessee, Knoxville, professor accused of spying for the Chinese military and twice prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department was acquitted of fraud charges by a federal judge Thursday, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
Anming Hu, a former associate professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at the university, had been accused of fraud and lying by the FBI as part of the Department of Justice’s controversial China Initiative to root out suspected Chinese spies working at American universities. The program was launched in November 2018 during the Trump administration and framed as targeting economic espionage, hacking and trade secret theft.
U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan wrote in the 52-page ruling acquitting Hu that "the government has failed to provide sufficient evidence from which any rational jury could find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that defendant had specific intent to defraud NASA by hiding his affiliation with BJUT [Beijing University of Technology] from UTK [University of Tennessee, Knoxville]."
Hu is one of about a dozen university-based researchers who have faced similar fraud-related charges for allegedly lying about Chinese funding or affiliations on federal grant applications, visa applications or tax forms. His first jury trial ended in a hung jury and a mistrial in June, prompting renewed calls for the department to suspend the initiative and investigate concerns about racial profiling and targeting of Asian American and Asian immigrant scientists. He potentially faced decades in prison on three counts each of wire fraud and making false statements.
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