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
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0513 GMT (1313 HKT)
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0631 GMT (1431 HKT)
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0656 GMT (1456 HKT)
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0836 GMT (1636 HKT)
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0334 GMT (1134 HKT)
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
ADVERTISEMENT