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Justice Department Kicks Off Huge Campaign against Alleged Chinese Technology Theft

Jan. 29, 2020 (EIRNS)—Harvard University chemistry chair Prof. Charles Lieber was arrested on Jan. 28 and charged by the Department of Justice with allegedly lying about his connections with Chinese scientists. Although EIR is not familiar with the legal specifics of this and similar cases, it is politically just the tip of a blitz campaign against U.S. researchers involved in projects with China. The DOJ is targeting, in particular, China’s “Thousand Talents” program, which was launched in 2008 to encourage Chinese and other researchers working abroad to come to China to use their talents to help develop the Chinese economy. The argument is being made by FBI Director Christopher Wray and others that China is intent on replacing the United States as the number-one world power and, by means of such a program, is thereby stealing “U.S. intellectual property.” Ergo, this becomes a national security issue.

In most cases, Chinese researchers, often motivated by a strong patriotic sense that they can contribute to China’s revitalization, bring with them only their knowledge and their minds. This DOJ campaign, in effect, is a direct attack on the very notion of international scientific cooperation, which has served humanity so well through the ages, and has already sent a chilling message to those scientists hoping to work with China or in China.

According to the DOJ, Professor Lieber allegedly accepted more than $1 million in grant money from Wuhan University to establish a lab and conduct research. Lieber is a prestigious chemist, who heads a lab with specialty in nanoscience, and holds appointments in both Harvard’s Chemistry Department, which he chairs, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In 2017, Harvard bestowed its highest faculty honor on Lieber, naming him a University Professor—a title he shared with only 25 other faculty members, reported the Harvard Gazette. But the acclaimed academic is now barred from the university’s campus. Harvard announced that “Professor Lieber has been placed on indefinite administrative leave.”

Lieber, who received more than $15 million in grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense, reportedly failed to disclose that in 2011 he had joined Wuhan University of Technology in China as a scientist.

“According to the court papers, he also participated in the Thousand Talents Plan, a program that aims to attract foreign research specialists. The U.S. has flagged the program as a security concern in the past,” BBC reported.

In related cases, two other researchers were arrested in the Boston area. Prosecutors said that Yanqing Ye, a Boston University robotics researcher, concealed the fact that she was in the Chinese army. Ms. Ye is accused of falsely identifying herself as a student and also continuing to work for the People’s Liberation Army, while completing a number of assignments in the U.S. Also, cancer researcher Zaosong Zheng was arrested at Boston’s Logan International Airport with 21 vials of biological samples in his luggage. Prosecutors allege he was planning to return to China to continue his research there.

This is only the beginning, however. On Feb. 6 the Center for Strategic and International Studies, will hold a “China Initiative Conference,” with FBI Director Christopher Wray and keynoted by Attorney General William Barr, “to fulfill the Department’s strategic priority of confronting national security threats presented by the People’s Republic of China, with a particular emphasis placed on the policies and practices that seek to challenge U.S. technological and scientific leadership.”

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