January 28, 2020

On January 28, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the Chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, Dr. Charles Lieber, has been criminally charged with one count of making a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement in relation to his connections to China’s Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) and China’s Thousand Talents Plan. Due to receiving over $15 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, Dr. Lieber was required to disclose all relevant foreign financial conflicts of interest. Despite working as a “Strategic Scientist” for WUT since 2011, and serving as a contractual participant in the Thousand Talents Plan (one of China’s recruitment programs that look to overseas professionals and students to provide research and technology from other countries to the Chinese government) from 2012 to 2017, Lieber allegedly minimized his involvement with these organizations and, in turn, caused Harvard University to falsely report his involvement in these programs to U.S. Government investigators.

The recent arrest of Dr. Lieber is part of DOJ’s China Initiative, which brings an increased focus on national security threats caused by technology transfers at universities that are contrary to U.S. interests, as well as increased efforts to protect critical infrastructure against external threats including foreign direct investment, supply chain threats, and the foreign agents seeking to influence the American public and policymakers without proper registration.

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