In fact, last week's story recycled four-year-old allegations that caused Harvard to suspend its research into hereditary links in a range of diseases. Since the program ended in 1998, four separate inquiries by both Chinese and American review boards have cleared Harvard (and two cooperating Chinese universities) of wrongdoing, save a few minor procedural lapses. A Chinese scientist from the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) who looked into the case also found no evidence of malpractice; all the peasants he spoke to said they gave informed consent.
Why is China fanning an old, seemingly dead controversy? Timing has a lot to do with it; Harvard scientists were preparing to restart the project. Xenophobia from China's old-guard establishment is a factor too. According to another scientist at CASS who has closely followed the case: "There are some senior leaders in the government who are unhappy about international institutes doing research in China." In nationalistic China, politics trump science any day.