A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been charged for failing to disclose contracts, appointments with the Chinese government when seeking federal grant money. The Department of Justice on January 14 informed that Gang Chen was charged by criminal complaint with wire fraud, failing to foreign bank account report (FBAR) and making a false statement in a tax return. The 56-year-old is a naturalised US citizen born in China and he is a mechanical engineer and nanotechnologist.
The US Justice Department said, “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 Offie in New York and serving as a member of at least two PRC Talent Programs”.
The department further added, “Since 2013, Chen allegedly received approximately USD 29 million of foreign funding, including USD 19 million from the PRC’s Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech)”.
#BREAKING: @MIT Professor Gang Chen was arrested at his home in Cambridge, MA, this morning for allegedly failing to disclose his work with the People’s Republic of China to @ENERGY, when applying for millions of dollars in U.S. federal grants. https://t.co/VewOFV0uCt pic.twitter.com/iub1BaYlHC— FBI Boston (@FBIBoston) January 14, 2021
Further, the department informed that Chen’s efforts to promote China’s scientific and economic development were partially detailed in a February 2016 email that Chen sent himself using his MIT e-mail account. Following his arrest, the FBI even executed search warrants at his home in Cambridge and office at MIT, where he is the director of the MIT Pappalardo Micro/Nano Engineering Laboratory. Chen has been released on bail and MIT in a statement said that it was “deeply distressed” by the arrest.
Meanwhile, Chen’s case is the latest to emerge from a US Justice Department crackdown on Chinese influence within universities amid concerns about spying and intellectual property theft by the Chinese government. Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had slammed China for stealing reach and intellectual property from Chinese students studying in US universities. Pompeo called China’s Communist Party as the “central threat of our time” and further highlighted efforts by Chinese security services to pressure and recruit Chinese academics and students as spies. Pompeo also alleged that Beijing was targeting Chinese students studying in the United States and threatening them over perceived criticism of the communist nation.