Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen announced during a speech at George Mason University that the department was scrapping its China Initiative, even though an internal review found no indication of racial bias or prejudice.
Olsen said, according to a transcript of his speech:
We have heard concerns from the civil rights community that the ‘China Initiative' fueled a narrative of intolerance and bias. To many, that narrative suggests that the Justice Department treats people from China or of Chinese descent differently. The rise in anti-Asian hate crime and hate incidents only heightens these concerns. The Department is keenly aware of this threat and is enhancing efforts to combat acts of hate.
He said there were also increasing concerns from the academic and scientific community about research grant fraud cases, which included cases where individuals allegedly did not disclose financial ties to China.
“We have heard that these prosecutions — and the public narrative they create — can lead to a chilling atmosphere for scientists and scholars that damages the scientific enterprise in this country,” Olsen said.
“Safeguarding the integrity and transparency of research institutions is a matter of national security. But so is ensuring that we continue to attract the best and the brightest researchers and scholars to our country from all around the world,” he added.
Although he said the China Initiative was driven by “genuine national security concerns,” by grouping cases under the China Initiative rubric, “We helped give rise to a harmful perception” the Department views those with Chinese ties “differently.”
Olsen said the DOJ is replacing the initiative with a “broader approach.”
The Trump administration launched the China Initiative in 2018, aimed at countering Chinese espionage efforts that included paying professors at American universities for access to research funded by U.S. government grants.
Democrat lawmakers applauded the decision. Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said the program had caused harm “to our communities.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slammed the DOJ's decision.
He said in a statement, “The CCP has stolen trillions of dollars of American intellectual property, destroyed millions of American jobs, and turned students and researchers studying in the United States into foreign spies. Yet today, the Biden administration announced it's cancelling the initiative tasked with combatting the Chinese government's unprecedented domestic sabotage and aggression because they claim it's racist. Cancelling this initiative is just another instance of weakness from an administration more concerned with being politically correct than protecting Americans. And you can be sure our adversaries are watching.”