HomeChinese AmericanFranklin Tao gets time-served, advocates relieved

Franklin Tao gets time-served, advocates relieved

by Akemi Tamanaha, Associate Editor

Franklin Tao, a University of Kansas researcher who was prosecuted for allegedly hiding his ties to China, was sentenced to time served with no fine or restitution, Reuters reports.

Tao was arrested and prosecuted under the Trump administration’s China Initiative, which was created to root out Chinese spies in American research. The initiative has been criticized for racial profiling.

In 2019, the Justice Department claimed that Tao hid his affiliation with Fuzhou University in China from the University of Kansas and two federal agencies that funded his research. Tao denied wrongdoing but was found guilty of wire fraud and hiding ties to China by a federal jury in April 2022.

In September 2022, a few months after his conviction, a federal judge threw out the three counts of wire fraud against Tao. Today, he faced sentencing for a single count of false statement.

According to Reuters, federal prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson in Kansas City, Kansas, to sentence Tao to two-and-a-half years in prison despite the fact that three of his convictions were thrown out. Robinson instead sentenced Tao to time served with no fine or restitution.

APA Justice, an organization that has worked to help Chinese academics who were falsely accused under the China initiative, was relieved to hear that Tao would avoid prison.

“We are relieved to learn that Professor Franklin Tao will receive no prison time or fine for his one count of false statement, rejecting the government’s request for enhanced sentencing. His case has nothing to do with espionage as the prosecutors tried to allege,” APA Justice said in an emailed statement to AsAmNews.

The organization, however, pointed out that the case has had a long-lasting, negative impact on Tao.

“He owes over a million dollars in legal fees,” APA Justice added. “His reputation is severely damaged.  His family is scared psychologically forever. His return to his tenure position at the University of Kansas is in question. Professor Tao is now on record as a convicted felon. This is an injustice and should be overturned.”

Chinese for Affirmative Action, a civil rights group based in San Francisco’s Chinatown, called for an end to the wrongful prosecution of Chinese and Asian American academics.

“The wrongful prosecution of Dr. Franklin Tao was and is part of the continuing fallout of the racist China Initiative program targeting academics of Chinese descent in the United States. Dr. Tao’s case should never have been pursued in the first place, and the ongoing racial profiling and wrongful criminal prosecution of Chinese and Asian Americans like Dr. Tao must end,” Co-Executive Director, Vincent Pan said in an emailed statement to AsAmNews.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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