The National Institutes of Health said that dozens of scientists have been fired or resigned during the Trump administration’s probe into espionage in US laboratories and universities – and the majority had links to a Chinese institution, according to a report.
Fifty-four scientists lost their jobs as part of an investigation launched in August 2018 into NIH grant recipients’ failure to disclose their ties to foreign governments.
Of those 54, 93 percent received hidden funding from a Communist Chinese institution, Science magazine reported.
Michael Lauer, NIH’s head of extramural research, during a virtual meeting with a senior advisory panel on Friday, said the probe targeted 189 scientists at 87 institutions – 80 percent of whom are Asian males who received Chinese financial backing.
The individuals received 285 grants totaling $164 million, Lauer said, and Chinese entities provided hidden support for 175 of them.
According to Lauer, 133 of the researchers failed to disclose receipt of a foreign grant and 103 had not disclosed participation in a foreign talent recruitment program.
Lauer said the fact that the overwhelming majority are Chinese is “not surprising” because “that’s who the Chinese target.”
He revealed that there are 399 scientists of “possible concern” to the NIH, the FBI has identified 121 of them and 44 have been called out by their own institutions.
NIH Director Francis Collins called the revelations “sobering.”
“It’s not what we had hoped, and it’s not a fun task,” Collins said.
The Justice Department kicked off the investigations into the espionage threat in 2018 and has so far arrested a number of scientists who have taken part in the Thousand Talents Program.
Charles Lieber, the chairman of Harvard University’s chemistry department, was indicted earlier this month on charges that he lied to the US government about his work for a Chinese technology school while receiving federal research funds.
He became involved in the Thousand Talents Program between 2012 and 2015.
President Trump last month barred Chinese graduate students and researchers with ties to the Chinese military from entering the United States.