Campus Reform | ANOTHER professor indicted over alleged secret ties to China

ANOTHER professor indicted over alleged secret ties to China

The professor, who has been suspended from UTK, received federal funds while concealing his foreign work.

A professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville has been arrested for allegedly concealing his ties to a Chinese university.

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An associate professor and researcher at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville has been arrested for allegedly concealing ties to a Chinese university while receiving federal funding, according to a recent Justice Department press release. 

Amning Hu was charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements following a grand jury indictment for “concealing his affiliation with Beijing University of Technology (BJUT) in China” in order to receive a research grant from NASA. 

According to the Justice Department, NASA is prohibited from using federal dollars to collaborate with China or Chinese universities. Hu allegedly made “false representations and omissions to UTK about his affiliation with BJUT caused UTK to falsely certify to NASA that UTK was in compliance with federal law.”

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The nature of the particular research at issue is currently unclear. As The Hill reported, the university has since removed from its website information about the professor's work. The Beijing University of Technology could not be reached for comment. 

A spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Campus Reform that the incident "is further proof of China’s espionage operations in the United States and attempts to steal our intellectual property," adding that Cruz "has long sought to counter China’s espionage, and protect the integrity of America’s universities and research.”

The University of Tennessee released the following statement: “The University of Tennessee has suspended Associate Professor Anming Hu, who was indicted by federal authorities on felony charges. UT officials have cooperated with federal authorities during the investigation. University leadership is fully committed to adherence to grant procedures and the protection of intellectual property.”

U.S. law enforcement officials also took a strong stance.

“The United States Attorney’s Office takes seriously fraudulent conduct that is devised to undermine federally-mandated funding restrictions related to China and Chinese universities,” said U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey for the Eastern District of Tennessee.  “The University of Tennessee has cooperated with the investigation, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office values the university’s assistance in this matter.”

“Hu allegedly committed fraud by hiding his relationship with a Chinese university while receiving funding from NASA,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “This is just the latest case involving professors or researchers concealing their affiliations with China from their American employers and the U.S. government.  We will not tolerate it.” 

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A ResearchGate profile for Hu stated that his work focused on nanomanufacturing and 3D printing. Hu’s Google Scholar page lists many papers relating to nanoparticles. 

According to the Justice Department press release, Hu faces 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each wire fraud charge and as many as five years in prison for each false statement charge. The case is currently under investigation by the FBI and Inspectors General from NASA and the Department of Energy, along with investigators from the Department of Homeland Security.  

Hu could not be reached for comment in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this articleWyatt Eichholz