Tennessee offers to rehire engineer cleared in China trial

Anming Hu was acquitted in court prosecution under Trump crackdown on academic scientists with China ties

十月 19, 2021
Administration building at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Source: iStock

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has offered to rehire Anming Hu, the engineering researcher acquitted in the first court prosecution under a Trump-era crackdown on academic scientists with ties to China.

The university proposed paying Dr Hu some of the salary he lost since his arrest in February 2020, and provide him $200,000 (£150,000) to restart his laboratory, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

His attorney has suggested that the China-born nanotechnology expert would like his job back, but did not immediately respond to questions on the matter.

University of Tennessee officials also did not respond to requests for comment. They have refused to discuss the case in the past, citing personnel privacy rules.

Dr Hu is among at least 16 academic scientists arrested under the initiative that the Trump administration described as a fight against Chinese espionage. The cases mainly involve allegations that the scientists failed in routine paperwork to fully disclose activities involving foreign partners.

As many as 1,000 scientists, however, have fled the US, raising concern among academics and other experts that the approach has generated more harm than benefit.

After a jury could not agree on Dr Hu’s guilt or innocence, a federal judge, Thomas Varlan, threw out the case against him. He concluded that Dr Hu faced confusing rules about reporting his work and had made no attempt to deceive the government.

The Biden administration has shown signs that it is willing to show scientists more benefit of the doubt, dropping charges in several other cases arising from the Trump crackdown, while working to clarify the rules and procedures for disclosing foreign research affiliations.

The current administration, however, has also expressed its own wariness of China’s intentions. The Chinese government’s consulate in Los Angeles has been warning that Chinese students arriving in the US have been subject to heavy interrogation by US security agents, the South China Morning Post reported.




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