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Harvard chemistry professor found guilty of hiding ties to China

Conviction is a victory for U.S. initiative against ‘economic espionage’

A Harvard University chemistry professor was convicted in federal court on Tuesday of concealing his ties to China, securing a victory for the Justice Department’s controversial and faltering initiative to address accusations of “Chinese economic espionage” in the United States, the Washington Post reported.

A jury in U.S. District Court in Boston found the professor, Charles Lieber, guilty on two counts of lying to federal authorities, two counts of falsifying tax returns and two counts of failing to report foreign finances.

Lieber, a former chair of Harvard’s chemistry department, had for three years worked as a “strategic scientist” at the Wuhan University of Technology in China as part of Beijing’s Thousand Talents recruitment program. As part of his contract from 2012 to 2015, according to an affidavit, the university in Wuhan paid Lieber a salary of as much as $50,000 per month, $150,000 in annual living expenses and grants of more than $1.5 million to create a research lab at the Chinese university.

But in an interview with Defense Department investigators at his lab on Harvard’s campus in 2018, according to the affidavit, Lieber said he had never been asked to participate in the Thousand Talents program, and that he “wasn’t sure” how China categorized him.

Lieber also misled Harvard into making false statements to investigators from the National Institutes of Health about his involvement with the university in Wuhan and the Chinese program, prosecutors alleged. Harvard, which placed Lieber on paid administrative leave after his indictment in January 2020, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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