US accuses MIT professor of hiding extensive China ties in federal grant application

Federal prosecutors on Thursday accused a high-profile Massachusetts Institute of Technology mechanical engineering professor with fraud, accusing them of failing to disclose and finance broad ties to the Chinese government in grant applications to the US Department of Energy.

The professor, Gang Chen, was arrested at his home in Cambridge, Mass. On Thursday morning.

56 years old Dr. Chen was born in China and is a naturalized US citizen. He was charged with wire fraud, failing to file a foreign bank account report, and making false statements in tax returns. The top prosecutor in Boston stated that Drs. Chen was loyal to China.

The Trump administration has worked to counter what has been seen as aggressive efforts by Chinese government-linked entities to improperly obtain US academic research and conduct other alleged mediation on US campuses. Federal prosecutors have brought more than a dozen criminal cases in which academics lied about receiving Chinese government funds or alleged that visiting researchers lied about their affiliation with the Chinese military.

“The problem is not cooperation by itself,” said US Attorney Andrew Lelling of the District of Massachusetts. “The problem lies about it.”

Special Agent Joseph Bonavoltona of the Boston Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that the FBI is conducting a new investigation related to China every 10 hours and about half of the agency’s 5,000 active investigation investigations are related to China.

Prosecutors say that nanotechnology expert Drs. Chen was working with the Chinese government until at least 2012. He was asked by the Chinese consulate office in New York to work as a “foreign expert” for the country. He became a recruiter, helping Chinese programs identify academics that could help its efforts in science and technology innovations, according to prosecutors, and had other roles with the government and other Chinese institutions.

He says he took some steps to hide the ties in which an MIT colleague was asked to remove from documents about a thermal energy company that he had written to a participant in the People’s Republic of China Talent Plan in China Was established in the context of its role as.

Prosecutors say that since 2013, Drs. Chen has received $ 19 million in federal grants from the US, at which time, he says, he also received $ 29 million in foreign funding, including $ 19 million from a public research university in China funded by the Chinese government. . . According to prosecutors, he maintained a bank account in China.

“His life is a symbol of the American dream,” Dr. Said Robert Fisher, a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP, who represents the chain. “He has devoted his life to scientific advancement in mechanical engineering. He loves America and is ready to vigorously defend these allegations. “

MIT said that on Thursday, Dr. It was “deeply distressed” by Chen’s arrest. “MIT believes the integrity of research is a fundamental responsibility, and we seriously worry about undue influence in American research,” the school said. “Pro. Chen is a long-serving and highly respected member of the research community, who charges against the government for all its further atrocities. “

Some academics charged with hiding their ties to China have pleaded not guilty and are fighting the charges in court. Several others have admitted wrongdoing, including an Ohio State University professor of rheumatology who pleaded guilty in November to lying on federal grant applications. He admitted that he worked to leverage millions of dollars to “hide his involvement and cooperation with a Chinese university” [National Institutes of Health] Grant to pursue Chinese medicine research, ”according to a document filed in connection with his petition.

Another professor at West Virginia University was sentenced to three months in prison in July for lying about money received by the Chinese government. In September prosecutors dropped another case in which a Chinese scientist at the University of Virginia accused a professor of stealing trade secrets from his professor, as the university admitted that the scientist had been authorized to use certain materials.

In December, a professor pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents after he accused him of using his position as an academic researcher at the University of Texas-Arlington to steal technology for the Huawei Technologies company.

The Department of Justice’s top national security official, John Demers, described last summer the arrest of several academic researchers who allegedly lied on their visa applications about their status with the People’s Liberation Army of China “of the iceberg. Tip “. US officials had no idea that so many Chinese students had connections to the Chinese military, saying more than 1,000 such researchers had left the US

The Justice Department’s attempt to prosecute cases against Chinese academics is facing increasing pushback from some faculties and Chinese-American groups.

Write Melissa Korn at [email protected] and Aruna Viswanatha at

Improvement and amplification
An earlier version of this article featured a photo of a man identified as the Chain Gang. He was not the same man as Gang Chen, a professor at MIT. (14 January)

Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.