The Education Department has asked the University of Texas (UT) System to provide documentation of its dealings with the Wuhan lab where the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have started, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
In the request, the Department asks for records of gifts or contracts from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and its researcher Shi Zhengli, known for her work on bats, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Dr. Shi and the Chinese government have claimed the Wuhan lab, which has come under intense scrutiny by U.S. officials, isn’t the source of the pandemic.
The UT System was asked to share documents regarding potential ties to the Chinese Communist Party and two dozen Chinese universities and companies, including Huawei Technologies Co. and a unit of China National Petroleum Corp. (RELATED: FCC May Punish US Carriers That Make Deals With China’s Huawei)
“Between June 6, 2014, and June 3, 2019, UT reported approximately twenty-four contracts with various Chinese state-owned universities and ten contracts with Huawei Technologies, all purportedly worth a reported total of $12,987,896,” the letter from the Department of Education, addressed to UT Chancellor James B. Milliken and obtained by the Wall Street Journal, said. “It is not clear, however, whether UT has in fact reported all gifts from or contracts with or relating to the Wuhan MCL, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and/or all other foreign sources, including agents and instrumentalities of the government of the Peoples’ Republic of China.”
The Education Department also requested documents related to any university system contracts or gifts from the chief executive officer of Zoom Video Communications, Eric Yuan. U.S. national security officials and independent cybersecurity researchers have expressed concerns about Zoom and its reliance on China-based engineering, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The company said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal that “Zoom is no different than any other U.S. technology company with operations in China, including many of our videoconferencing peers.”
A Zoom spokesperson said in a statement to the Caller that “if Zoom is on such a list, it is in error and indicates the authors did not do their homework.”
“Zoom is an American company, publicly traded on the NASDAQ, with headquarters in California and a founder and CEO who is an American citizen,” the statement added.
Universities are required to disclose to the Education Department all contracts and gifts from foreign sources that are worth $250,000 or more in a calendar year, whether that’s the total alone or combined.
The Education Department launched investigations into Harvard and Yale in February as part of an “ongoing review” of U.S. universities in order to spot failures to report foreign funding. It discovered at least $6.5 billion in foreign funding from countries like China and Saudi Arabia, seemingly confirming to many lawmakers the extent to which foreign influence permeates many college campuses. (RELATED: Education Department Launches Investigation Into Harvard And Yale To Spot Possible Failures To Report Foreign Funding)
Lawmakers like Republican Arizona Sen. Martha McSally and Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz criticized a grant by the National Institutes of Health that supported global research on coronavirus, and that includes the Wuhan lab.
In a letter to House and Senate leadership, the lawmakers wrote that taxpayers’ money “should not be sent to a dangerous Chinese state-run bio-agent laboratory that lacks any meaningful oversight from U.S. authorities.”