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Chinese-born Professor Faults US Authorities for Arrest


Chinese-born Professor Xi Xiaoxing, Chair of Department of Physics at Temple University in Pennsylvania (Photo: Courtesy Xi Xiaoxing)
Chinese-born Professor Xi Xiaoxing, Chair of Department of Physics at Temple University in Pennsylvania (Photo: Courtesy Xi Xiaoxing)

A Chinese-born physics professor, set to be cleared of U.S. charges that he sent sensitive technology to China, is faulting American law enforcement authorities for his ordeal because of their lack of understanding of "routine" scientific research.

U.S. federal prosecutors said Friday they are planning to drop fraud charges against Xi Xiaoxing, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was the chairman of Temple University's physics department when U.S. authorities accused him earlier this year of scheming to provide sensitive technology to China.

Xi had maintained his innocence, saying he did nothing more than "common academic collaborations practiced by so many colleagues every day." After his arrest in May, he voluntarily stepped down as chairman of Temple's physics department, but remained a faculty member there.

'Traumatic' experience

In an interview with VOA's Mandarin service, Xi said there needs to be closer collaboration between U.S. law enforcement officials and science agencies and researchers, to avoid cases like his. He called his arrest and the charges against him a "very traumatic experience."

"Probably there should be some kind of dialogue or close collaboration between the science agencies, which encourage collaboration among researchers, and the law enforcement who look at many routine activities with colored glasses of criminal activities," Xi said.

"It is very difficult for the researchers," he said. "Now they are scared when they collaborate with people from China. Should they do that? Should they not to do that? There is no guideline. It is very difficult for the science community."

Petition for dismissal

The U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia filed a motion in federal court Friday to dismiss four counts of wire fraud against Xi. In its filing, the government said only that it had received "additional information'' since charges against the 57-year-old professor were filed in May.

Prosecutors accused him of seeking prestigious appointments in China in exchange for providing data on electronics technology invented by a U.S. company. Xi was working for the U.S. firm while on sabbatical in 2002. The company developed a thin-film superconducting device containing magnesium diboride.

In 2004, Xi was awarded a grant from the U.S. Defense Department to purchase the device for research, but prosecutors had alleged that he "exploited it for the benefit of third parties in China, including government entities."

The dismissal motion comes after Xi and his lawyer, Peter Zeidenberg, gave a presentation to investigators on August 21. That presentation included affidavits from world renowned physicists and experts who looked at emails between Xi and contacts in China, and explained that he was involved in a scientific pursuit that had a very narrow commercial application and did not involve restricted technology, Zeidenberg said.

Xi had faced up to 80 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted. The dismissal motion still must be approved by a U.S. district judge.

LISTEN: Xi Xiaoxing discusses the case (first 10 seconds in Chinese)

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This report was produced in collaboration with VO's Mandarin service