Skip to main content

China: NASA mistakenly banned Chinese researchers from conference

By Paul Armstrong and Feng Ke, CNN
October 20, 2013 -- Updated 1503 GMT (2303 HKT)
Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission members work in the data processing room in Pasadena, California, August 2, 2012.
Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission members work in the data processing room in Pasadena, California, August 2, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NASA had barred from Chinese researchers from next month's Kepler science conference
  • Xinhua: NASA management apparently misinterpreted a 2011 U.S. security law
  • The law prevents NASA funds from being used to collaborate with China

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Sorry, no Chinese researchers allowed! Oh wait, seems like that was a misunderstanding. Please do come.

NASA's management apparently misinterpreted a security law when it barred Chinese researchers from attending the space agency's Kepler Science Conference in November, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported Sunday. Xinhua said NASA sent a letter to Chinese scientists inviting them back and cited excerpts from the letter.

NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Sunday morning.

The confusion apparently stemmed from a U.S. law passed in 2011 that prevents NASA funds from being used to collaborate with China or to host Chinese visitors at its facilities.

NASA had announced that Chinese nationals would not be allowed to attend the conference for NASA's Kepler space telescope program at the Ames Research Center due to national security.

The space telescope has been searching for planets outside of our solar system.

Earlier this month, China slammed NASA for its decision to ban Chinese scholars from the conference, calling it "discriminatory."

Gong Li, an official with the Party School of the China Central Committee's Communist party, said the ban was similar to previous U.S. action against the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. He said it also illustrated U.S. fear of China's fast development.

NASA didn't release an official statement on its website due to the U.S. government's partial shutdown earlier this month.

But some U.S. scientists joined in decrying the decision and called for a boycott of the conference.

"In good conscience, I cannot attend a meeting that discriminates in this way. The meeting is about planets located trillions of miles away, with no national security implications," Geoff Marcy, an astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an e-mail to the organizers.

Russian divers find huge suspected meteorite chunk in Chelyabinsk

'Inaccuracies'

U.S. Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, who drafted the 2011 law, issued a statement on his website that sought to correct "inaccuracies" about the restrictions first reported by Britain's Guardian newspaper.

"I was concerned to read an October 4 article in The Guardian that reported on poor guidance about these policies with regard to restrictions on Chinese nationals attending a conference next month at NASA Ames Research Center. Unfortunately, the article is riddled with inaccuracies, as is, it appears, the guidance provided by NASA Ames staff to the attendees," Wolf wrote.

"As you know, the congressional provision -- which has been in place since early 2011 -- primarily restricts bilateral, not multilateral, meetings and activities with the Communist Chinese government or Chinese-owned companies. It places no restrictions on activities involving individual Chinese nationals unless those nationals are acting as official representatives of the Chinese government."

Security fears

Wolf said NASA officials may have believed the decision was needed because of extra temporary restrictions on foreign nationals after a potential security breach by a Chinese citizen at a NASA facility earlier this year.

In March this year, a Chinese aerospace contractor who worked for NASA was arrested at Washington's Dulles International Airport as he boarded a flight to Beijing.

Bo Jiang, who worked at NASA's Langley's Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, was charged with making false statements to U.S. authorities by failing to disclose all of the electronic devices he was carrying on his one-way flight.

Wolf, who oversees congressional funding of several agencies, told reporters in March he believed Jiang was spying and had access to highly sensitive documents, including source codes for high-tech imaging used in missiles, unmanned aerospace equipment and other technology desired by the Chinese government.

Big asteroid buzzes past Earth and will again in 19 years

CNN's Holly Yan contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0551 GMT (1351 HKT)
David McKenzie meets some American teenagers who are spending a year in China to be fully immersed in the culture.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0259 GMT (1059 HKT)
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
The Chinese government pledges to protect a boy with HIV, who was shunned by his entire village in Sichuan, state media reported.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons for Beijing.
December 6, 2014 -- Updated 0542 GMT (1342 HKT)
At the height of his power, security chief Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0826 GMT (1626 HKT)
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0648 GMT (1448 HKT)
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 0855 GMT (1655 HKT)
Despite a high-profile anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past year.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
A 24-hour bookstore in Taipei is a popular hangout for both hipsters and bookworms.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
North Korean refugees and defectors face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT