Chinese National, Harvard Researcher, Indicted For Illegal Ties To China
Three Boston area researchers/educators have been indicted on charges that they lied regarding ties to a Wuhan, China technology institute. One of them was in possession of 21 vials of brown liquid that he was seemingly illegally transporting to China (more on him at the conclusion).
Prosecutors say that Dr. Charles Lieber, the chair of Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, had a contract with Wuhan Institute of Technology. Additionally, he led a group that held contracts with the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health.
He’s being accused of lying about his ties with Wuhan Institute of Technology when questioned regarding his Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health contract.
“It appears China paid Lieber hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for his involvement with the Chinese entities and for his work on research for Chinese gain,” said U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling.
Harvard placed Lieber on administrative leave following his arrest at his academic offices.
Harvard issued the following statement:
The charges brought by the U.S. government against Professor Lieber are extremely serious. Harvard is cooperating with federal authorities, including the National Institutes of Health, and is initiating its own review of the alleged misconduct. Professor Lieber has been placed on indefinite administrative leave.
The second indictment is for Yanqing Ye, a Chinese national and lieutenant of the Chinese military, who also failed to disclose ties with the institute. He remains free in China.
“A border search of her electronic devices showed that Ye had complied information for the People’s Liberation Army about two U.S. residents with expertise in robotics and computer science,” said Lelling.
Boston University says that Ye left his post at the school back in 2019 and that they intend to fully cooperate with authorities.
The third indictment is for Chinese national and Harvard sponsored Zaosong Zheng. Zheng’s case might be the most worrisome, given the fears regarding international biological warfare. A researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Zheng was arrested at Boston’s Logan Airport attempting to smuggle biological material overseas.
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The nature of Zheng’s biological material has yet to be disclosed. But this is what we do know: He possessed 21 vials of brown liquid with typed and handwritten notes wrapped in a plastic bag inside a sock, all stored in his checked luggage. After originally denying any wrong-doing, Zheng admitted to stealing some of the material from a research lab at Beth Israel Hospital and the rest were lifted from someone else’s research lab. He admitted that he planned to take it all back to China.
But what for? That’s not entirely clear.
“I believe, based on my training and experience, that Zheng… was knowingly gathering and collecting intellectual property from BIDMC, possibly on behalf of the Chinese government,” FBI Special Agent Kara Spice wrote.
The fact is, Wuhan being the epicenter of a potential pandemic means that any international spy games linked to the region will come under intense public scrutiny.
Beth Israel Deaconess released the following statement:
We are deeply proud of the breadth and depth of our research programs. Any efforts to compromise research undermine the hard work of our faculty and staff to advance patient care. We are grateful for the diligence and professionalism of federal law enforcement in this case and are fully cooperating with the government’s ongoing investigation of this matter.
“Boston is an especially attractive target for this kind of exploitation. Universities, research institutions and tech companies in this area must become sensitized to this type of threat,” said Lelling. “This is not an accident or coincidence. This is a small sample of China’s ongoing campaign to siphon off American technology and knowhow for Chinese gain.”
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.
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