Chinese state media accuses US of racism after MIT prof is arrested for China ties. Here’s what MIT had to say.
Benjamin Zeisloft, Campus Reform
- Chinese state media called on MIT to stand up for a professor arrested by the Justice Department for China ties.
- The article quoted an academic and a Chinese official who insisted that the professor’s arrest was racist.
- MIT’s president responded by touting the university’s relationship with Chinese Communist Party entities.
A Chinese state media outlet accused the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of racism for not defending a professor who was arrested by U.S. officials for failing to disclose ties to China.
As Campus Reform reported on January 14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Gang Chen was arrested for wire fraud, failure to file a foreign bank account report, and falsifying a statement on a tax return.
According to a Department of Justice press release, Chen was born in China but is now a naturalized citizen of the United States. He allegedly failed to report necessary information to the Department of Energy in securing grant funding, and he neglected to report a bank balance in China to the IRS.
The Global Times — a subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party’s newspaper group The People’s Daily — published an article, which quoted one official who accused MIT of “thinly veiled racism” for failing to defend Chen.
“The arrest of Dr. Gang Chen on January 13, 2021, by the Boston FBI is nothing but thinly veiled racism,” said Rao Yi, a Chinese neurobiologist, in an open letter quoted by the outlet. He asserted that “MIT will be implicated in one of the worst cases of academic racism in the 21st century” if the university does not support Chen.
Rao insisted that Chen’s associations with China are “very normal in academia.”
He also claimed that “the root of the problem is, of course, known to all of us: Trumpism has fundamentally eroded morality in the US.”
“Much has to be done for the US to recover from Trumpism. The entire world has witnessed how few US politicians have spines, in front of Trump and his lies,” he concluded.
The Global Times also quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, who declared that “some US departments should show professionalism when dealing with cases; stop political manipulation and defaming China’s talents plans.”
On January 14 — the day that the Justice Department announced Chen’s arrest — MIT President Rafael Reif released a brief statement, explaining that the university was “deeply distressed” by the developments.
On January 22, Reif published another statement in which he touted the university’s relationship with China. A report in the Wall Street Journal — which Campus Reform has not independently confirmed — states that MIT is covering Chen’s legal fees.
Reif wrote that the project for which Chen received funding was “about advancing the work of a group of colleagues, and the research and educational mission of MIT.”
Reif also told the university’s Chinese and Chinese-American community that he had heard their concerns over “a growing atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion in our society, an atmosphere that can make daily life and daily work difficult, painful and exhausting.”
“I would therefore like to state clearly, as I have before, that you are essential and integral members of our MIT community,” he added. “We value your contributions as students, colleagues, teachers, innovators and leaders, and we value you personally as friends — just as we value every member of the global family of MIT, including Professor Chen and his family.”
Campus Reform reached out to MIT for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.
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