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Iran Press TV

Harvard professor convicted by US jury of 'lying' about China ties

Iran Press TV

Wednesday, 22 December 2021 4:58 PM

A professor at Harvard University has been convicted of charges that he lied about his ties to a Chinese recruitment program amid growing crackdown on China's influence within US research.

A federal jury in Boston on Tuesday found Charles Lieber, a well-known nanoscientist and the former head of Harvard's chemistry department, guilty of two counts of making false statements to federal authorities, two counts of making and subscribing a false income tax return, and two counts of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts with the Internal Revenue Service.

Prosecutors alleged that Lieber in 2011 agreed to become a "strategic scientist" at Wuhan University of Technology and participated in a Chinese recruitment drive called the "Thousand Talents Program."

He was being paid $50,000 per month by the Chinese university and given $1.5 million to establish a nanoscience research lab at WUT, the Justice Department said in a news release.

While participation is not deemed a crime, prosecutors contend that Lieber, 62, lied to authorities when he was asked about his involvement in the recruitment drive.

His lawyer Marc Mukasey had earlier argued that prosecutors "mangled" evidence, lacked key documents to support their claims and relied too much on a "confused" FBI interview with the scientist after his arrest.

"If there was a Nobel Prize for inventing something out of nothing, the government's case would win," Mukasey told jurors last week.

"You will see no villains in this case and you will see no victims," Mukasey said. "What you will see is in every charge in this case, the government's proof is mangled or made up or meddled with or mishandled or misguided or mistaken or just plain missing."

Lieber was charged in January 2020 as part of the US Department of Justice's "China Initiative," which was launched during the former US administration to counter suspected Chinese economic espionage and research theft.

President Joe Biden's administration has continued the initiative despite the growing outcry.

Critics emphasize that the initiative impedes academic research, racially profiles Chinese researchers and terrorizes scientists.

In an article published on Wednesday, China's state-run daily Global Times said the US government has "persecuted scientists who have cooperated or conducted exchanges" with China.

"Washington is weakening its own soft power and hard power by spreading fear and a sinophobic atmosphere in the field of science and academic research, and now the situation is even worse than the Cold War era of McCarthyism," the report said.

Lieber is one of 23 US academics, most of them of Chinese descent, "targeted under the initiative, the report stated, citing the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"In the past two years, eight scientists received prison sentences of up to 37 months after choosing to avoid a trial by pleading guilty to various charges, mostly involving failure to disclose financial ties to Chinese institutions," the report added.

Tensions between the US and China, two biggest economies in the world, have heightened in recent years. Both countries have been at odds over a range of issues from trade to South China Sea to Taiwan and Covid-19 pandemic origins.

A recent investigation by MIT Technology Review showed that the China Initiative had strayed far from its initial mission.

"Instead of focusing on economic espionage and national security, the initiative now appears to be an umbrella term for cases with almost any connection to China, whether they involve state-sponsored hackers, smugglers, or, increasingly, academics accused of failing to disclose all ties to China on grant-related forms," the report published earlier this month stated.

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