Cracking Down on Illegal Ties to China

We’re tracking American professors, administrators, students, and government researchers who have been charged for crimes surrounding illegal ties to China.

David Acevedo

Editor's Note: This article was originally published under the name "John David," the former pseudonym of NAS Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To learn more about why David no longer writes under this name, click here.


Updated May 5, 2021. This list, originally published in May 2020, will be updated periodically. The National Association of Scholars counts 47 cases of illegal ties to China in American higher education and government research. If you know of additional professors, higher education administrators, students, or government researchers who have been investigated or charged for crimes surrounding illegal academic or monetary ties to China, please let us know at [email protected].

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Tensions between the U.S. and China, as well as between China and other countries, have steadily increased year on year. Many are warning of an imminent “new Cold War” in the wake of the present U.S.-China trade war. Meanwhile, Chinese imperialism is being met on many fronts around the world: military posturing, widespread human rights abuses, steering the World Health Organization onto a duplicitous path, economic sabotage of other nations, attempts to turn still other nations into dependencies, and the subversion of Hong Kong's autonomy, to name a few.

American higher education has been a particular target for sabotage. The Communist Party seeks to gain access to other nations’ intellectual property, to turn college administrators and faculty members into reliable dependents, and to monitor Chinese students abroad. The National Association of Scholars has fought this threat for years. In 2017, we published Outsourced to China, a comprehensive report detailing how the Chinese government infiltrates American colleges and universities to enhance its own image through Confucius Institutes (CIs). Unfortunately, CIs are but a piece of China’s soft power puzzle.

China has skirted the laws of host nations with impunity, and now we learn that China has done more than skirt the law: it has orchestrated an international spy-ring to steal Western science and technology.

The Chinese Communist Party operates over 200 “talent recruitment programs,” campaigns designed to funnel research secrets to China under the ruse of scholarly “collaboration.” One such program is the Thousand Talents Plan (TTP), which targets researchers in STEM fields and has an estimated 7,000 members across the globe under contract. While international research collaboration is often mutually beneficial for the nations involved, TTP operates in secrecy and without transparency. It is not collaboration at all, but rather wholesale theft of intellectual capital and a threat to national security.

In recent months, several TTP “scholars” in American higher education and governmental research laboratories have been exposed for transfering research back to mainland China and accepting payments from the Communist Party outside the purview of administrators and the government. The relative handful of participants who have been caught is just the beginning—there is every reason to believe that dozens, or even hundreds, more instances of such duplicity exist within American academia. 

This level of clandestine entanglement would be dangerous with any country, much more so with our greatest geopolitical rival. It must be brought to an end, for the sake of higher education and our country as a whole. American research must serve American interests; any researcher that behaves otherwise ought to be swiftly removed from his position and prosecuted if appropriate.

Update, May 7, 2021: On May 6th, 2021, the National Association of Scholars learned of an open letter sent by a group of U.S. Senators led by Rob Portman (R-OH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) to Attorney General Merrick Garland. In the letter, the senators write that "A January 2021 Wall Street Journal article indicated that the Department of Justice (DOJ) was 'weighing an amnesty program under which U.S. academics could disclose past foreign funding without fear of punishment for their disclosures.'  That article further indicated that 'High-level officials … have discussed the program in recent months, and circulated a draft proposal for it.' It has come to our attention that DOJ is planning to implement this amnesty program within the next few weeks, just months after Congress took action to deter foreign influence in academia." At the end of the letter, they write that "This is a complex problem, but an amnesty program rewarding individuals who broke federal law to steal U.S. taxpayer-funded research is simply not the answer." NAS concurs with their assessment and urges the DOJ to reverse course on this amnesty program. However, if the program does go into effect, we may expect a number of U.S.-based academics to get away with their past foreign disclosure crimes. We also expect that it will embolden current and future researchers to establish foreign ties, as they will have the assurance that, at least until this program is ended, they will face no criminal penalties for their actions. NAS will still report on these individuals if their cases are made known, regardless of whether the Justice Department chooses to abdicate its penal responsibilities.

NAS anticipates more cases to surface in the coming months and years, and so we have compiled this running tally. Below, we list the cases in reverse chronological order:

Download an Excel chart of the cases.

Download a PDF chart of the cases.

4/21/2021 - Mingqing Xiao - Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

According to court documents, Mingqing Xiao, 59, of Makanda, Illinois, fraudulently obtained $151,099 in federal grant money from the National Science Foundation (NSF) by concealing support he was receiving from the Chinese government and a Chinese university. ... 

According to the indictment, Xiao has worked in SIUC’s mathematics department since 2000, focusing his research on partial differential equations, control theory, optimization theory, dynamical systems, and computational science. In that position, Xiao allegedly applied for and received NSF grant funds for a project set to run from 2019 to 2022 without informing NSF about another, overlapping grant he had already received from the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province, China. Xiao also allegedly failed to inform NSF that he was on the payroll of Shenzhen University, a public university in Guangdong Province, and that he had already committed to teaching and conducting research at Shenzhen University from 2018 to 2023. ...

Before awarding the grant, NSF questioned Xiao about any current or pending funding from “worldwide sources,” including specifically whether he held any position outside of the United States or had obtained funding from non-U.S. funding sources. The indictment accuses Xiao of falsely reporting to NSF that he had nothing else to disclose.

2/3/2021 - Lin Yang - University of Florida

"A former University of Florida (UF) professor and researcher and resident of China has been indicted for fraudulently obtaining $1.75 million in federal grant money from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by concealing support he received from the Chinese government and a company that he founded in China to profit from that research.

Lin Yang, 43, who resided in Tampa, Florida, at the time of the offenses, is charged with six counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to an agency of the United States. ...

According to the indictment, Yang obtained a $1.75 million grant from NIH to develop and disseminate an imaging informatics tool for muscles known as 'MuscleMiner.' Between September 2014 and July 2019, Yang served as the principal investigator for the NIH grant at UF. ...

During that same period, in 2016, Yang established a business in China known as 'Deep Informatics.' The indictment further alleges that Yang promoted his business in China by relating that its products were the result of years of research supported by millions of dollars of U.S. government funding. Simultaneously, Yang applied for and was accepted into the People’s Republic of China’s Thousand Talents Program (TTP) in connection with Northwestern Polytechnical University, located in Xi’an, China."

2/1/2021 - Li Chen - Nationwide Children’s Hospital Research Institute (affiliated with Ohio State University)

"A former Dublin, Ohio, woman was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 30 months in prison for conspiring to steal exosome-related trade secrets concerning the research, identification and treatment of a range of pediatric medical conditions.

Li Chen, 47, also conspired to commit wire fraud.

Chen admitted in her guilty plea in July 2020 to stealing scientific trade secrets related to exosomes and exosome isolation from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute for her own personal financial gain. ...

Chen received benefits from the Chinese government, including the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. She also applied to multiple Chinese government talent plans, a method used by China to transfer foreign research and technology to the Chinese government."

1/14/2021 - Gang Chen - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Gang Chen, 56, was charged by criminal complaint with wire fraud, failing to file a foreign bank account report (FBAR) and making a false statement in a tax return. Chen will make an initial appearance today before Magistrate Judge Donald L. Cabell.

According to charging documents, Chen is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in China. He is a professor and researcher at MIT where he serves as Director of the MIT Pappalardo Micro/Nano Engineering Laboratory and Director of the Solid-State Solar Thermal Energy Conversion Center (S3TEC). Since approximately 2013, Chen’s research at MIT has been funded by more than $19 million in grants awarded by various U.S. federal agencies.

Since 2012, Chen has allegedly held various appointments with the PRC designed to promote the PRC’s technological and scientific development by providing advice and expertise – sometimes directly to PRC government officials – and often in exchange for financial compensation. This includes acting as an “overseas expert” for the PRC government at the request of the PRC Consulate Office in New York and serving as a member of at least two PRC Talent Programs. Since 2013, Chen allegedly received approximately $29 million of foreign funding, including $19 million from the PRC’s Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech)."

1/13/2021 - Meyya Meyyappan - National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

"Since in or about 1996, MEYYAPPAN, the defendant, has been employed by NASA, an independent U.S. government agency responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

In his position at NASA, MEYYAPPAN was subject to certain statutory, regulatory, and agency restrictions and reporting requirements regarding, among other things, outside employment, travel, and compensation. Notwithstanding these prohibitions, MEYYAPPAN participated in China’s Thousand Talents Program, a program established by the Chinese government to recruit individuals with access to or knowledge of foreign technology or intellectual property, and held professorships at universities in China, South Korea, and Japan, and failed to disclose these associations and positions to NASA and the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. 

On or about October 27, 2020, MEYYAPPAN was interviewed by the FBI, NASA OIG, and the USAO, in New York, New York. During that interview, MEYYAPPAN falsely stated, among other things, that he was not a member of the Thousand Talents Program and that he did not hold a professorship at a Chinese university. In truth and in fact, MEYYAPPAN was a member of the Thousand Talents Program and held a professorship at a Chinese university, funded by the Chinese government."

12/11/2020 - Yu Zhou - Nationwide Children’s Hospital Research Institute (affiliated with Ohio State University)

"A former Dublin, Ohio, man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today to conspiring to steal exosome-related trade secrets concerning the research, identification and treatment of a range of pediatric medical conditions.

Yu Zhou, 50, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud.

Zhou admitted to conspiring to steal scientific trade secrets related to exosomes and exosome isolation from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute for his own personal financial gain in China. ...

The defendants admitted to starting a company in China to sell the isolation kits. They received benefits from the Chinese government, including the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs and the National Natural Science Foundation of China."

8/28/2020 - Haizhou Hu - University of Virginia

"Hu, 34, is charged with accessing a computer without authorization, or exceeding authorization to obtain information from a protected computer and theft of trade secrets.

According to court documents, investigators first became aware of Hu, who is in the United States conducting research studying bio-mimics and fluid dynamics at the University of Virginia, on August 25, 2020 when he attempted to board a flight to China at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. A routine screening conducted by authorities revealed that Hu was alleged to be in possession of bio-inspired research simulation software code that he was not authorized to possess, and which represented the result of years of research and resources in its development by members of the University of Virginia academic community."

8/28/2020 - Guan Lei - University of California, Los Angeles

"The criminal complaint alleges that Guan, who was in the U.S. on a J-1 non-immigrant visa, threw a damaged hard drive into a trash dumpster near his residence on July 25. The FBI recovered the damaged hard drive after Guan was not allowed to board a flight to China and after Guan refused the FBI’s request to examine his computer. The affidavit in support of the complaint notes that the internal hard drive 'was irreparably damaged and that all previous data associated with the hard drive appears to have been removed deliberately and by force.'

According to the complaint, Guan is being investigated for possibly transferring sensitive U.S. software or technical data to China’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) and falsely denying his association with the Chinese military – the People’s Liberation Army – in connection with his 2018 visa application and in interviews with federal law enforcement. ...

In addition to destroying the hard drive, the complaint alleges that Guan concealed digital storage devices from investigators and falsely told federal officials that he had not had any contact with the Chinese consulate during his nearly two-year stay in the U.S."

8/24/2020 - Zhengdong Cheng - Texas A&M University, NASA

"Cheng allegedly led a team conducting research for NASA. According to the criminal complaint, for several years he willfully took steps to obscure his affiliations and collaboration with a Chinese University and at least one Chinese-owned company. The terms of Cheng’s grant prohibited participation, collaboration or coordination with China, any Chinese-owned company or any Chinese University, according to the charges. ...

The charges allege Cheng and TAMU received funds based on Cheng knowingly providing false information to TAMU and consequently to NASA. In addition to the funds, Cheng personally benefited from his affiliation with TAMU and NASA with increased access to unique NASA resources, such as the International Space Station, according to the complaint. This access allegedly allowed Cheng to further his standing in China at Guangdong University of Technology and other universities. The charges further allege he held senior research positions there unknown to TAMU and NASA and was able to serve in the People’s Republic of China Talents program."

7/23/2020 - Qingyun Sun - West Virginia University

"Sun, age 58, pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with wire fraud and filing a false tax return. Sun was a Chinese National employed by WVU as an associate professor and the associate director of the United States-China Energy Center at the University. As a part of his employment at WVU, through the West Virginia Development Office, he also acted as the Governor’s assistant for China affairs. He was also employed by Synfuels Americas Corporation, an energy conversion technology provider of coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids processes located in Sterling, Virginia, but headquartered in Beijing, China. From July 2011 to May 2015, Peabody Energy Generation Holding Company based in St. Louis, Missouri, paid consulting fees to Energy United LC, a consulting business Sun established in 2005. The scheme involved Sun’s operation of his consulting business through Energy United."

7/23/2020 - Kaikai Zhao - Indiana University

"According to a complaint filed in the Southern District of Indiana on July 17 and unsealed today, Zhao, a graduate student studying machine learning and artificial intelligence at Indiana University, applied for an F1 nonimmigrant visa in June 2018. In response to the question on the visa application, “Have you ever served in the military,” Zhao answered, “No.” As set forth in the Complaint, Zhao served in the National University of Defense Technology, the PLA’s premier institution for scientific research and education, which is directly subordinate to the PRC’s Central Military Commission. Zhao also attended the Aviation University of Air Force (AUAF), which is a Chinese military academy analogous to the U.S. Air Force Academy. AUAF students are active military service members who receive military training. In addition, the FBI located an online photograph of Zhao wearing a PLAAF uniform."

7/20/2020 - Juan Tang - University of California, Davis

"According to court documents unsealed in the Eastern District of California on July 20, Tang, a researcher at the University of California at Davis, applied for a non-immigrant J1 visa on or about Oct. 28, 2019. The visa was issued in November 2019, and Tang entered the United States on or about Dec. 27, 2019. Tang is alleged to have made fraudulent statements on her visa application. Specifically, to the question, “Have you ever served in the military,” Tang responded “No.”

In fact, Tang is a uniformed officer of the PLA Air Force (PLAAF). As set forth in the Complaint, the FBI found a photograph of Tang in a military uniform and references to Tang’s employment at the Air Force Military Medical University, which has also been known as the Fourth Military Medical University. The FBI interviewed Tang on June 20. Although Tang denied having been a member of the military, an additional photograph of Tang in a different PLA military uniform was found on electronic media seized pursuant to a search warrant."

7/20/2020 - Song Chen - Stanford University

"According to the affidavit, Song, 38, a Chinese national, entered the United States on December 23, 2018, using a J-1 non-immigrant visa. Song obtained the J-1 visa, a document “for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs,” with an application she submitted in November 2018. In that application, Song stated that she had served in the Chinese military only from September 1, 2000, through June 30, 2011. She further stated that her employer was “Xi Diaoyutai Hospital” located at “No. 30 Fucheng Road, Beijing, 100142.” Song described herself in her visa application as a neurologist who was coming to the U.S. to conduct research at Stanford University related to brain disease. 

The affidavit alleges that these were lies, and that Song was a member of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese military, when she entered and while she was in the United States, and that the hospital she listed on her visa as her employer was a cover for her true employer, the PLA."

7/9/2020 - Song Guo Zheng - The Ohio State University

"A rheumatology professor and researcher with strong ties to China has been ordered held without bond to face a charge of grant fraud for not disclosing that he was engaged in a sophisticated scheme to use approximately $4.1 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop China’s expertise in the areas of rheumatology and immunology. He is also charged with making false statements about maintaining employment in China at the same time he was employed at universities in the United States, including The Ohio State University. ...

An affidavit filed with the complaint alleges that, since 2013, Zheng has been participating in a Chinese Talent Plan, a program established by the Chinese government to recruit individuals with knowledge or access to foreign technology intellectual property. Since then, Zheng has used research conducted in the U.S. to benefit the People’s Republic of China. Zheng allegedly failed to disclose conflicts of interest or his foreign commitments to his U.S. employers or to the NIH."

6/11/2020 - Xin Wang - University of California, San Fransisco

"Wang entered the United States on March 26, 2019, after receiving a multiple entry J1 non-immigrant visa in December of 2018. Wang’s visa application stated that the purpose of his visit was to conduct scientific research at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Wang is alleged to have made fraudulent statements on this visa application. Specifically, in his visa application, Wang stated that he had served as an Associate Professor in Medicine in the PLA, from September 1, 2002 through September 1, 2016.

In reality, when interviewed by officers of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at LAX on June 7, 2020, Wang provided information that he was, in fact, still currently a “Level 9” technician in the PLA, employed by a military university lab. ... According to court documents, Wang was still employed by the PLA while he was studying in the United States and he made false statements about his military service in his visa application in order to increase the likelihood that he would receive his J1 visa."

5/14/2020 - Qing Wang - Case Western Reserve University

“Dr. Qing Wang, a former Cleveland Clinic Foundation (CCF) employee, is charged with false claims and wire fraud related to more than $3.6 million in grant funding that Dr. Wang and his research group received from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). According to the criminal complaint, Dr. Wang knowingly failed to disclose to NIH that he had an affiliation with and held the position of Dean of the College of Life Sciences and Technology at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) and received grant funds from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (CNSF) for some of the same scientific research funded by the NIH grant. It is also alleged that Dr. Wang participated in the Thousand Talents Program. …”

5/11/2020 - Simon Saw-Teong Ang - University of Arkansas

“In the one-count complaint, Ang was charged with one count of Wire Fraud. The complaint charges that Ang had close ties with the Chinese government and Chinese companies, and failed to disclose those ties when required to do so in order to receive grant money from NASA.  These materially false representations to NASA and the University of Arkansas resulted in numerous wires to be sent and received that facilitated Ang’s scheme to defraud."

5/11/2020 - Xio-Jiang Li - Emory University

"On May 8, 2020, Dr. Xiao-Jiang Li, 63, of Atlanta, Georgia, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with filing a false tax return and has been sentenced by a U.S. District Judge on the same day.  Dr. Li, a former Emory University professor and Chinese Thousand Talents Program participant, worked overseas at Chinese Universities and did not report any of his foreign income on his federal tax returns. … "

3/10/2020 - James Lewis - University of West Virginia

“Lewis, age 54, pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with “Federal Program Fraud.” From 2006 to August 2019, Lewis was a tenured professor at West Virginia University in the physics department, specializing in molecular reactions used in coal conversion technologies. In July 2017, Lewis entered into a contract of employment with the People’s Republic of China through its “Global Experts 1000 Talents Plan.” ... In March 2018, Lewis submitted a request to WVU for an alternate/parental work assignment, requesting to be released from his teaching duties for the fall 2018 semester in order to serve as the primary caregiver for a child he and his wife were expecting in June 2018. In fact, however, Lewis knew this request was fraudulent. Rather than caring for his newborn child, Lewis planned to work in China during the fall 2018 semester as a part of his agreement with the “1000 Talents Plan.” Based on the false justification Lewis offered, WVU granted his request.”

2/27/2020 - Anming Hu - University of Tennessee, Knoxville

“Anming Hu, 51, an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at UTK, is charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements. The indictment alleges that beginning in 2016, Hu engaged in a scheme to defraud the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) by concealing his affiliation with Beijing University of Technology (BJUT) in China. Federal law prohibits NASA from using federally appropriated funds on projects in collaboration with China or Chinese universities. As alleged in the indictment, Hu’s false representations and omissions to UTK about his affiliation with BJUT caused UTK to falsely certify to NASA that UTK was in compliance with federal law. … "

1/28/2020 - Yanqing Ye - Boston University

“Yanqing Ye, 29, a Chinese national, was charged in an indictment today with one count each of visa fraud, making false statements, acting as an agent of a foreign government and conspiracy. Ye is currently in China. … According to the indictment, Ye is a Lieutenant of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China and member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). On her J-1 visa application, Ye falsely identified herself as a “student” and lied about her ongoing military service at the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), a top military academy directed by the CCP. It is further alleged that while studying at Boston University’s (BU) Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering from October 2017 to April 2019, Ye continued to work as a PLA Lieutenant completing numerous assignments from PLA officers such as conducting research, assessing U.S. military websites and sending U.S. documents and information to China.”

1/28/2020 - Charles Lieber - Harvard University

“Dr. Charles Lieber, 60, Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, was arrested this morning and charged by criminal complaint with one count of making a materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement. … Unbeknownst to Harvard University beginning in 2011, Lieber became a “Strategic Scientist” at Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in China and was a contractual participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan from in or about 2012 to 2017. … The complaint alleges that in 2018 and 2019, Lieber lied about his involvement in the Thousand Talents Plan and affiliation with WUT.”

1/24/2020 - Turab Lookman - Los Alamos National Laboratory

"Turab Lookman, 67, of Sante Fe, New Mexico, and a former scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, pleaded guilty in federal court in Albuquerque today to a charge of making a false statement to a government investigator about his involvement in the Thousand Talents Program, an initiative by the Chinese government to recruit people with access to and knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property."

1/21/2020 - Unidentified “Faculty 3” - University of Florida

“A third faculty member had worked part-time in the College in Medicine since 2012 and also was a postdoctoral associate and student at UF. The report found that “Faculty 3” had held a full-time appointment at a Chinese university since at least 2017 and participated in a Chinese recruitment program. He also received at least one grant from the Chinese government and did not disclose any of this information to UF or the NIH.”

1/21/2020 - Unidentified “Faculty 2” - University of Florida

“Known as “Faculty 2” in UF’s investigative report, this person founded, co-owned and served as CEO of a China-based company while working for UF. He was recruited into China’s Thousand Talents Program in 2017, which may have included an undisclosed financial stipend, the report said. He began working for UF in 2014 and resigned when confronted with the investigation.”

1/21/2020 - Tan Weihong (previously Unidentified “Faculty 1”) - University of Florida

“Faculty 1 [now identified as Tan Weihong], who had worked as a professor of chemistry at UF since 1995, was the vice president at a Chinese university for two years and had been actively employed there for nearly a decade before his American employer became aware of it. He also had been affiliated with a second Chinese university since 2017 as the dean of an institute, the report stated. The faculty member received at least four grants from Chinese science foundations and ran his own lab in the country. The report said he may have had other business interests, including a consulting company for research services, that were never disclosed to UF or the National Institutes of Health.”

12/18/2019 - Thomas Sellers - Moffit Cancer Center (University of South Florida)

"The Board of Directors of Moffitt Cancer Center (Moffitt) today accepted the resignation of its president and CEO, Dr. Alan List, and the center director, Thomas Sellers, for violations of conflict of interest rules through their work in China. ...

Moffitt initiated an internal review of team members’ collaborations with research institutions in China after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) warned all its grant recipients of foreign efforts to influence or compromise U.S. researchers. Moffitt found several compliance violations that also prompted separation of four additional researchers.

Moffitt’s review focused on its team members’ participation in China’s “Thousand Talents” Program, which recruits global researchers and academics."

12/18/2019 - Alan List - Moffit Cancer Center (University of South Florida)

"The Board of Directors of Moffitt Cancer Center (Moffitt) today accepted the resignation of its president and CEO, Dr. Alan List, and the center director, Thomas Sellers, for violations of conflict of interest rules through their work in China. ...

Moffitt initiated an internal review of team members’ collaborations with research institutions in China after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) warned all its grant recipients of foreign efforts to influence or compromise U.S. researchers. Moffitt found several compliance violations that also prompted separation of four additional researchers.

Moffitt’s review focused on its team members’ participation in China’s “Thousand Talents” Program, which recruits global researchers and academics."

12/9/2019 - Zaosong Zheng - Harvard University

"In August 2018, Zheng entered the United States on a J-1 visa and conducted cancer-cell research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston from Sept. 4, 2018, to Dec. 9, 2019. It is alleged that on Dec. 9, 2019, Zheng stole 21 vials of biological research and attempted to smuggle them out of the United States aboard a flight destined for China.  Federal officers at Logan Airport discovered the vials hidden in a sock inside one of Zheng’s bags, and not properly packaged.  It is alleged that initially, Zheng lied to officers about the contents of his luggage, but later admitted he had stolen the vials from a lab at Beth Israel.  Zheng stated that he intended to bring the vials to China to use them to conduct research in his own laboratory and publish the results under his own name."

December 2019 - Howard McLeod - Moffit Cancer Center (University of South Florida)

"The sixth scientist who was fired, pharmacogenomicist Howard McLeod, was already participating in the Thousand Talents Program, funded by other Chinese institutions when he came to Moffitt in 2013 to lead an institute on personalized medicine. According to the report, McLeod had enlisted a Chinese scientist, Yijing He, as his 'agent in China,' and managed to put him on Moffitt’s payroll for 5 years—although the scientist never actually did any work for the Florida cancer center. Instead, 'Dr. He facilitated a wide variety of opportunities and activities in China, both commercial and academic, for himself and Dr. McLeod,' the report states."

December 2019 - Pearlie Epling-Burnette - Moffit Cancer Center (University of South Florida)

"The report says the ringleader was immunologist Sheng Wei, a Tianjin Medical University graduate, who came to Moffitt in 1992. Wei began to receive support from the Thousand Talents Program in 2011 and over the next several years recruited four colleagues, beginning with List. The others were Sellers; Daniel Sullivan, head of Moffitt’s clinical science program; and cancer biologist Pearlie Epling-Burnette."

December 2019 - Daniel Sullivan - Moffit Cancer Center (University of South Florida)

"The report says the ringleader was immunologist Sheng Wei, a Tianjin Medical University graduate, who came to Moffitt in 1992. Wei began to receive support from the Thousand Talents Program in 2011 and over the next several years recruited four colleagues, beginning with List. The others were Sellers; Daniel Sullivan, head of Moffitt’s clinical science program; and cancer biologist Pearlie Epling-Burnette."

December 2019 - Sheng Wei - Moffit Cancer Center (University of South Florida)

"The report says the ringleader was immunologist Sheng Wei, a Tianjin Medical University graduate, who came to Moffitt in 1992. Wei began to receive support from the Thousand Talents Program in 2011 and over the next several years recruited four colleagues ...

'As part of his recruitment efforts, Dr. Wei interfaced with China personnel, supplied forms, collected materials and videos, all to enable TMUCIH to gain Talents program participants from Moffitt (and at least a few U.S. scientists from outside Moffitt),' the report explains. 'Dr. Wei served as intermediary between Moffitt personnel and TMUCIH, often leading trips to TMUCIH translating communications.'

'Over this period of time,' the report continues, 'Dr. Wei maintained contact regarding Talents program applications with TMUCIH personnel, as well as other apparent Chinese contacts.'"

8/29/2019 - Bo Mao - University of Texas, Arlington

"Mao, 37, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of making a false statement in a video appearance before U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn. He is expected to be sentenced to time served and leave the United States on Dec. 16. He was in custody for six days after his arrest.

Mao was originally accused of entering into an agreement with an unidentified company to use its circuit board for research and sharing the proprietary information with a Chinese company. Descriptions suggest that the first company refers to CNEX Labs and the second to Huawei.

At the plea hearing, Mao admitted through a Mandarin interpreter that he told FBI agents did not know anyone at a university in Texas owned the board. But he had sought access to one when he made the false statement."

8/21/2019 - Feng Tao - University of Kansas

"Feng 'Franklin' Tao, 47, of Lawrence, Kansas, an associate professor at KU’s Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC), is charged with one count of wire fraud and three counts of program fraud.  … The indictment alleges that in May 2018 Tao signed a five-year contract with Fuzhou University in China that designated him as a Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor. The contract required him to be a full time employee of the Chinese university. While Tao was under contract with Fuzhou University, he was conducting research at KU that was funded through two U.S. Department of Energy contracts and four National Science Foundation contracts."

7/6/2019 - Kang Zhang - University of California, San Diego

"inewsource has learned that Kang Zhang, the former chief of eye genetics at theUCSD Shiley Eye Institute, is a member of the Thousand Talents Program... 

Our reporting has also uncovered Zhang is the founder and primary shareholder of a publicly traded Chinese biotechnology company that specializes in the same work he performed at the University of California San Diego. He has not disclosed this and his other Chinese pharmaceutical businesses to the U.S. government or UCSD on forms required by university policy and federal regulations."

7/2/2019 - Yi-Chi Shih - University of California, Los Angeles

"Shih and [Kiet Ahn] Mai, who previously worked together at two different companies, are named in a criminal complaint unsealed this morning that charges them with conspiracy. Shih is also charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), a federal law that makes illegal, among other things, certain unauthorized exports.

The complaint alleges that Shih and Mai conspired to illegally provide Shih with unauthorized access to a protected computer of a United States company that manufactured specialized, high-speed computer chips known as monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs). The conspiracy count also alleges that the two men engaged in mail fraud, wire fraud and international money laundering to further the scheme."

5/16/2019 - Li Shihua - Emory University

"... a husband-and-wife team of neuroscientists at Emory University in Atlanta, Li Xiao-Jiang [listed above] and Li Shihua, on 16 May learned that the school had fired them and shuttered their lab. The Lis have worked at Emory for 23 years, both are U.S. citizens, and Li Xiao-Jiang is tenured. In a statement to Science, the Lis insisted they had disclosed their ties to China, and this was a misunderstanding about discussions in progress regarding patents, future contracts, and the founding of a potential biotechnology company. ... The Lis are well known for their work in developing animal models for Huntington disease. Li Xiao-Jiang is part of the Thousand Talents Program, which aims to recruit researchers back to China and is a central concern of the U.S. government.

4/19/2019 - Unidentified Researcher 3 - MD Anderson Cancer Center (University of Texas)

"The MD Anderson Cancer Center here has ousted three senior researchers after the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, informed it that the scientists had committed potentially “serious” violations of agency rules involving confidentiality of peer review and the disclosure of foreign ties. The researchers are among five MD Anderson scientists that NIH cited in letters to the cancer center, which is part of the University of Texas (UT) system. MD Anderson officials say they invoked termination proceedings against three of the researchers, are still investigating allegations against one, and determined termination was not warranted for the fifth scientist. ... "

4/19/2019 - Unidentified Researcher 2 - MD Anderson Cancer Center (University of Texas)

"The MD Anderson Cancer Center here has ousted three senior researchers after the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, informed it that the scientists had committed potentially “serious” violations of agency rules involving confidentiality of peer review and the disclosure of foreign ties. The researchers are among five MD Anderson scientists that NIH cited in letters to the cancer center, which is part of the University of Texas (UT) system. MD Anderson officials say they invoked termination proceedings against three of the researchers, are still investigating allegations against one, and determined termination was not warranted for the fifth scientist. ... "

4/19/2019 - Unidentified Researcher 1 - MD Anderson Cancer Center (University of Texas)

"The MD Anderson Cancer Center here has ousted three senior researchers after the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, informed it that the scientists had committed potentially “serious” violations of agency rules involving confidentiality of peer review and the disclosure of foreign ties. The researchers are among five MD Anderson scientists that NIH cited in letters to the cancer center, which is part of the University of Texas (UT) system. MD Anderson officials say they invoked termination proceedings against three of the researchers, are still investigating allegations against one, and determined termination was not warranted for the fifth scientist. ... "

2/25/2019 - Yiheng Percival Zhang - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)

"A former Virginia Tech professor studying artificial sweeteners was found guilty last week of conspiring to commit federal grant fraud, making false statements and obstruction by falsification, First Assistant United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar announced today. ...

According to evidence presented at trial, Zhang, who at the time of the offenses was a biological systems engineering professor at Virginia Tech, founded Cell-Free Bioinnovations, Inc. (“CFB”), a research firm located in Blacksburg, Virginia. CFB relied exclusively on federal grants for funding its research activities. Zhang began working as a paid researcher for the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences by, at least, 2014. In 2015, Zhang caused fraudulent grant proposals to be submitted to the NSF. Evidence presented at trial indicated grant funds obtained would be used for research Zhang knew had already been done in China. Zhang intended to use the grant funds for other CFB projects rather than for the projects for which the funds were requested. To obstruct the investigation, Zhang submitted falsified timesheets to government investigators."

2/22/2018 - Chunzai Wang - Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

"A former research oceanographer in the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has been sentenced for accepting a salary from the People’s Republic of China. ...

While a NOAA/AOML employee, Wang knowingly and willfully received a salary for his services as an employee of NOAA/AOML, from the People’s Republic of China, Changjiang Scholars Program ...

Specifically, beginning in 2010, and while employed at NOAA, Wang entered into contractual agreements to work on China’s Changjiang Scholars Program, Thousand Talents Program, and was also involved in China’s 973 Program which mobilizes scientific talents to strengthen basic research in line with national strategic targets of the People’s Republic of China."

2018 - Xie Keping - MD Anderson Cancer Center (University of Texas)

"Dr. Keping Xie, 55, a gastroenterology professor, is suspected of funneling advanced research from the facility to the Chinese government, according to U.S. officials briefed on the probe.

Xie had been charged by local law enforcement with possession of child pornography, but those charges were eventually dropped.

Xie’s attorney, Nathan Mays, told NBC News at the time that Xie vehemently denied the child pornography charges and said he was unaware of any investigation into Xie by federal authorities for any type of espionage.

Xie had also been a member of the Thousand Talents program."

12/12/2013 - Wengui Yan - USDA Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center

"Weiqiang Zhang, 47, Manhattan, Kansas, and Wengui Yan, 63, Stuttgart, Arkansas, are charged with one count of conspiracy to steal trade secrets. The victim in the case—identified in court records as Company A—has invested approximately $75 million in patented technology used to create a variety of seeds containing recombinant proteins. The company has an extensive intellectual property portfolio of more than 100 issued and pending patents and exclusive licenses to issued patents.

Zhang and Yan are charged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas. An affidavit in support of the complaint alleges that on August 7, 2013, agents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection found stolen seeds in the luggage of a group of visitors from China preparing to board a plane to return home. While in the United States, the group had visited various agricultural facilities and universities in the Midwest, as well as the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuggart, Arkansas."

4/11/2013 - Hua Jun Zhao - Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center

"United States Attorney James L. Santelle announced that earlier today, Hua Jun Zhao (age 42) was arraigned in federal court on criminal charges that he: (1) had attempted to damage and had deleted information from a federally-protected computer at the Medical College of Wisconsin; and (2) had lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in connection with an investigation into the alleged theft of an anti-cancer compound and related research data from the Medical College. ...

Court records indicate that Dr. Zhao, a research scientist formerly employed by the Medical College, previously had been charged in a criminal complaint with the theft of the anti-cancer compound, in violation of the Economic Espionage Act. The United States moved to dismiss that complaint without prejudice in light of the indictment returned by the grand jury. According to Court records, the indictment relates to efforts by Dr. Zhao to obstruct the investigation into the theft of the compound by lying to the FBI and by covertly accessing the Medical College’s computer server and attempting to delete proprietary information – including research data – related to the stolen compound."
 

2010 - Ruopeng Liu - Duke University

"In late 2007, Liu won Smith's permission to bring two of his old colleagues from China for a visit to Smith's lab. The two Chinese researchers, whose trip was fully funded by China, worked on a few projects during their three to six-month stay, including the invisibility cloak. During a trip to the lab one day when Dr. Smith was not present, they took pictures of the lab and its contents, focusing on the apparatus that allows scientists to measure the cloak. They brought photos and measurements of all the equipment used to fabricate the cloak back to China. 

Much to Dr. Smith's surprise, an exact replica was built in Liu's old lab.

'It sounds like theft,' said Dr. Smith. 'If we were a company you might think so.'

The FBI agreed with Dr. Smith when they opened a case on Liu in 2010.

Liu strongly denies any wrongdoing. When NBC's Cynthia McFadden went to Liu's company headquarters in Shenzhen and asked him if the Chinese government had sent him to Duke University to learn from Dr. Smith and bring his information back, Liu called the claim 'ridiculous' and 'far away from the truth.'"

Download an Excel chart of the cases.

Download a PDF chart of the cases.


John David is Communications and Administrative Associate at the National Association of Scholars.

Image: Dong Fang, Public Domain  

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