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Harvard professor in US court for allegedly lying about his relationship with China

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Charles Lieber has been accused of failing to disclose funding he received from the Chinese government.Credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Public Affairs & Communications, CC BY-SA 4.0


An American chemist Charles M. Lieber has been accused by his country Department of Justice of lying about funding he received from the Chinese government.

Lieber, a former Harvard chemistry chair, was indicted on two counts for making false statements to federal investigators in the US – an offence that could earn him up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000, according to a DOJ press release.

The first count alleges that Lieber purposely told federal investigators in 2018 that he was never asked to participate in the Thousand Talents Program and that he “wasn’t sure” how China categorized him.

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But according to DoJ statement, representatives of Wuhan University of Technology in China previously asked Lieber to participate in the Thousand Talents Program, and he signed a three-year contract as a One Thousand Talent “high level foreign expert” in 2012.

The Chinese government established the Thousand Talents Program in 2008, hoping to attract scholars from across the world to contribute to Chinese development. The U.S. government has since said the program poses a danger to national security.

On a second charge, the grand jury also indicted Lieber of making false statements for causing Harvard to tell the National Institutes of Health in 2019 that he had never participated in the Thousand Talents Program.

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According to DoJ statement, Lieber was obligated to work for WUT no less than nine months a year during which time he would publish articles, organize international conferences and apply for patents on behalf of the Chinese university, among other things.

According to court documents, when Lieber was questioned by the Department of Defense investigators in April 2018, he denied he had ever participated in the Thousand Talents program.

He was arrested on January 28 while Harvard placed him on paid administrative leave later that day. Lieber was released after accepting a $1 million bail agreement.

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Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in an email that the University is reviewing the indictment.

Lieber’s lawyer, Marc L. Mukasey, wrote in an emailed statement that the government “has this wrong.”

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