Portman Statement on Conviction of Former Top Harvard Research Professor and Chinese “Thousand Talents” Member for Making False Statements and Tax Offenses

WASHINGTON, DC– Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, issued the following statement after the Department of Justice announced that Charles Lieber, the former chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, was convicted by a federal jury in connection with lying to federal authorities about his affiliation with the People’s Republic of China’s Thousand Talents Program and the Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in Wuhan, China, as well as failing to report income he received from WUT.

Portman and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), led a year-long investigation into China’s talent recruitment programs like the Thousand Talents Program, culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing in 2019 that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment programs,” China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded IP for China’s military and economic gain. Portman’s bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act to stop theft of U.S. taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property by global competitors passed the Senate as a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act earlier this year. The legislation awaits House passage.

“I commend the Department of Justice for its work to help protect taxpayer-funded academic innovation and research from theft by foreign governments like China. This case highlights how the U.S. and our academic institutions, like Harvard University, are high-value targets for China’s talent recruitment efforts given our innovative taxpayer-funded research. We cannot let the American taxpayer continue to fund the rise of our global competitors to the detriment of hard-working Americans. Dr. Lieber is a clear example of China’s continued attempts to steal our taxpayer-funded research. This harms our important academic institutions, federal grant-making agencies, and American businesses. I’m pleased that our bipartisan Subcommittee investigation in 2019 spurred action by federal law enforcement to hold China and its Thousand Talents Program members accountable and ensure that justice is served.

“This case shows that it is time for the House of Representatives to pass my Senate-passed, bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act to help stop foreign governments from stealing our research and innovation so that American taxpayer-funded research will be used to level the playing to create jobs for hard-working Americans. China’s ongoing theft of America’s research and innovation must stop.”