Head of Harvard Chemistry Department and Two Chinese Nationals Charged with Trying to Steal American Research and Technology

Charles Leiber, former head of Harvard's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
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The Trump Administration is cracking down on Chinese academic and corporate espionage and has made several arrests of suspects, including a Harvard professor and two Chinese nationals, who may have funneled information to China.

Charles Lieber, the chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, was arrested on charges of lying to investigators about being paid up to $50,000 a month by Wuhan University of Technology from 2012 to 2017, and receiving more than $1.5 million to establish a lab. Critics observed that Lieber’s actions look like an attempt at espionage with a generous monetary reward.

In a separate case, Yanqing Ye, a lieutenant in China’s People’s Liberation Army, concealed her foreign military service to gain entry into the US as a researcher. She is accused of sending US documents to China and assessing US military websites under orders from the Chinese military. She has not been arrested as she is in China.

Another Chinese national, Zaosong Zheng, a medical student, was charged with attempting to smuggle 21 vials of ‘biological materials’ out of the country in a sock in his luggage before a a flight to China.  Authorities say that Zheng later confessed to having stolen the vials from Beth Israel Hospital. -GEG

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday cases against three individuals accused of concealing ties to the People’s Republic of China while conducting research in Massachusetts.

Charles Lieber, chairman of the department of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University, was arrested Tuesday on charges of making false statements. Authorities say he failed to disclose ties to a Chinese government-run program setup to entice scientists and researchers in the U.S. to share their expertise and research with China.

Lieber will appear Tuesday afternoon before judge Marianne B. Bowler in federal court in Boston. He is on paid administrative leave from Harvard and will not have access to the campus nor will be be able to continue in his teaching and research roles.

In a separate case, the Department of Justice said Yanqing Ye, a lieutenant in the People’s Liberation Army had gained a non-immigrant visa to conduct studies at Boston University. According to court documents, Ye was conducting research in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering at the Center of Polymer Studies at Boston University.

Authorities say on Ye’s visa application she misrepresented her foreign military service to gain entry to the U.S.

United States Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a press conference at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse Tuesday that Ye was working as an unregistered agent of the People’s Republic of China and concealed her military connections while working as a researcher.

“A colonel in the People’s Republic of China gave Ye numerous assignments while she was in the United States, such as assessing U.S. military websites,” Lelling said. “She lied about her involvement with Chinese military projects.”

Court documents also allege Ye sent U.S. documents and information to China.

A third person, a 29-year-old Chinese national Zaosong Zheng, was charged with attempting to smuggle 21 vials of biological materials out of the country in a sock.

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