The high-profile trial of Harvard Professor Charles Lieber, which opens on Tuesday in federal court in Boston, will shine a spotlight on the controversial “China Initiative” programme introduced in 2018 by the US Department of Justice to stem the loss of technological secrets to China.

Asian-American groups hope the trial and resulting publicity will help put an end to the initiative. US President Joe Biden has come under pressure from activists, universities and lawmakers to review the campaign.

Supporters say the programme, initiated during Donald Trump’s administration, has checked China’s bid to undermine US defence, weaken US industry and erode national security. FBI Director Christopher Wray, a staunch defender, said in testimony before the US Senate Intelligence Committee in April that the bureau opened a new China-related investigation every 10 hours.

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