Employee At Ohio State University Charged For Hiding Ties With China While Accepting US Grants

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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A professor and researcher with ties to multiple American universities has been arrested for hiding ties with the Chinese government and using federal funding to carry out research and recruit talent for China, a Justice Department statement said.

Song Guo Zheng, 57, was arrested in Anchorage May 22 while trying to board a flight to China. Zheng allegedly lied about his ties with China to his employers or the National Institutes of Health, and accepted taxpayer-funded grants, according to the statement.

Zheng is listed as a former professor or researcher in the medical schools of multiple universities, including Penn State University and the Ohio State University. The Ohio State University confirmed to the Daily Caller that Zheng is an employee of the University and was put on unpaid leave as the university proceeds toward termination.

“Ohio State has been and continues to assist federal law enforcement authorities in every way possible. We cannot comment further at this time due to the ongoing law enforcement investigation,” a representative said. 

Zheng was a participant of the ‘Chinese Talent Program,’ or the Thousand Talents Program, which has resulted in violations of U.S. law like espionage, theft or trade secrets, and grant fraud among many other scientists who’ve been involved in the program. (RELATED: Most Scientists Who Lost Jobs At National Institute Of Health Due To Probe Into Foreign Ties Worked For Chinese Government)

An affidavit filed with the complaint alleges that Zheng has been participating in the talent program since 2013 and used research conducted in the U.S. to benefit Beijing.

Yet again, we are faced with a professor at a U.S. University, who is a member of a Chinese Talent Plan, allegedly and deliberately failing to disclose his relationship with a Chinese university and receipt of funds from the Chinese Government in order to obtain millions of dollars in U.S. grant money designed to benefit the health and well-being of the people of the United States — not to be hijacked to supplement the research goals of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. 

The U.S Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio believes Zheng was preparing to flee the country after learning his employer was beginning a probe into whether he was complying with the rules in taxpayer-funded grants. At the time of his arrest, he was carrying multiple pieces of luggage with cell phones, laptops, several USB drives, silver bars, and expired Chinese passports for his family along with deeds for property in China. 

“The taxpayers of the United States are the real victims when researchers defraud our government and exploit our system to benefit China,” FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman said in the statement. 

Zheng’s arrest follows that of multiple other professors and researchers at American universities who hid their ties with the Chinese government.

Among the most recent cases was that of former Emory University professor Dr. Xiao-Jiang Li, who was sentenced in May after pleading guilty to charges that included accepting at least $500,000 in Chinese government funding that he never reported on federal income tax returns while applying for NIH research grants.