The U.S. government on Friday filed motions in federal courts to dismiss charges in the remaining four cases of Chinese researchers arrested on accusations of visa fraud last year.
A case against a fifth Chinese researcher had already been dismissed earlier in the day at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The cases were part of the department’s “China Initiative” started three years ago under the Trump administration to prevent the transfer of U.S. technology to China. The motions to dismiss the cases coincide with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visit to China on Sunday and Monday.
All five arrests occurred about a year ago, when U.S.-China relations were at a nadir. Now the world’s two largest economies are seeking to navigate a troubled relationship.
The Justice Department said in a statement that it was dismissing the cases in the “interest of justice.”
“Recent developments in a handful of cases involving defendants with alleged, undisclosed ties to the People’s Liberation Army of the People’s Republic of China have prompted the Department to re-evaluate these prosecutions,” the statement by department spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle said, without detailing what those developments were.
All the Chinese scientists have pleaded not guilty of falsifying visa applications to conceal military ties, as well as other charges.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Asian Law Caucus have voiced concern about the cases, which they say reflect anti-China bias. Defense lawyers have said their clients’ only “crime” is running afoul of U.S.-China politics.