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U.S. Congressman Asks NASA to Disinvite Chinese Participants From Upcoming Meeting

5 March 2013 4:25 pm
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U.S. House of Representatives

Legal question. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) says NASA hasn't gotten proper waivers for Chinese officials to attend an agency-hosted meeting on Earth-observing satellites.

Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) is taking NASA to task for what he believes may be a violation of a law that he helped put on the books 2 years ago.

Wolf wants NASA to bar any Chinese citizens from attending a meeting next week of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), an international body whose membership includes several Chinese organizations. In a letter sent to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden yesterday, Wolf said he was concerned that Chinese officials were planning to attend a gathering of the CEOS Strategic Implementation Team being held at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, from 12 to 14 March. If those officials were to attend the meeting, Wolf noted in his letter, it would violate a provision in a 2011 law that prohibits NASA from hosting Chinese officials at any NASA facilities. According to that law, the only way the administration can get around this restriction is by certifying to the House of Representatives and Senate appropriations committees at least 14 days in advance of a visit that the visit poses no threat to national security.

"Because it is now less than 14 days before the commencement of the CEOS meeting and no such certification has been provided, the hosting of any Chinese visitors would be in clear violation of the law," Wolf says in his letter. "Accordingly, I expect any participation by official Chinese visitors will be promptly cancelled."

The provision that Wolf is referring to is language that he helped introduce into law as part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act 2012. Wolf, a strong critic of China's policy toward Tibet and alleged human rights violations, has long expressed concern over what he sees as China's attempts to steal sensitive technology from the United States.

In addition to demanding that NASA cancel any Chinese participation in the Langley meeting, Wolf has asked the NASA administrator to review all visits by outsiders to NASA facilities since the law went into effect.

NASA officials are "reviewing" the 1.5-page letter, a NASA spokesperson tells ScienceInsider. No word on how long that review could take, or if it will be completed before 12 March.

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