A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been accused of not disclosing his work to groups related to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) while accepting grant funds from US agencies, the Justice Department said on January 14.
Gang Chen, 56, was charged in a criminal complaint with making false statements on a tax return, committing wire fraud and failing to file a foreign bank account report, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Chen, a naturalized US citizen of China, serves as director of the MIT Pappalardo Micro / Nano Engineering Laboratory and director of the Solid State Solar Thermal Energy Conversion Center. Since about 2013, Chen has been funded by more than $ 19 million in grants from US agencies, according to the statement.
Since 2012, Chen has reportedly had several appointments with the [CCP] designed to promote « China’s scientific and technological development by providing advice and expertise » and sometimes directly to CCP officials « often in exchange for financial compensation. »
That included acting as an expert for the communist regime at the request of the Chinese Consulate in New York. He also participated in at least two Chinese-run talent shows, the Justice Department said.
« Since 2013, Chen has reportedly received approximately $ 29 million in foreign funding, including $ 19 million from the… Southern University of Science and Technology, » according to the DOJ.
According to the DOJ, Chen detailed the CCP’s scientific and economic development strategy in an email he sent to himself on his MIT account.
The email, in part, said that it should “promote Chinese collaboration [sic] »; « China places (scientific) innovation as key and not as fashion [sic], but because we must do it, from the historical trend as well as from our stage ”; “Our economy is no. 2, but from technology (structure of the economy) and human resources, we are far from no. 2 « ; « We are paying a high price for the environment, not sustainable, as well as for the cost of labor »; and other items.
The email also said that importance should be given to “environmental protection and development in the same place, even greater environment, clean energy if higher cost, reduce steel, cement. We must have technology, we cannot grow like the past ”. It also said that “18th communist convention, scientific innovation [should be] placed in the core. We realize not only independent innovation; but also internationalize to plan and facilitate. Innovation behind closed doors doesn’t work; innovation as a driver ”.
Andrew Lelling, US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, noted that it is not a problem for investigators to collaborate with foreign citizens and entities.
« The problem is not the collaboration itself, » he said. « The problem is lying. »
Officials further alleged that Chen became a recruiter and helped Chinese programs identify academics who could help in their efforts to advance the CCP’s science and technology programs.
Prosecutors added that Chen allegedly tried to hide some of his ties to CCP entities.
« Chen also allegedly did not disclose to the IRS in his 2018 tax return that he maintained a bank account in the People’s Republic of China with more than $ 10,000 in 2018, » the DOJ wrote.
In a statement on January 14, MIT said it is « deeply distressed » by Chen’s arrest, adding: « Prof. Chen is a long-time and highly respected member of the investigative community, which makes the government’s accusations against him are even more distressing.
As of December 31, 2020, MIT reported receiving more than $ 125 million in gifts and contracts from China, more than any other university in the United States, according to the Department of Education.
It is not known if Chen has a lawyer.
In December, a professor pleaded guilty to charges of lying to federal agents after he allegedly used his position as a researcher at the University of Texas-Arlington to steal technology and intellectual property from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. Another professor, Franklin Tao, who worked for the University of Kansas, was charged in 2019 with defrauding the university and United States government officials regarding his research.
Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.