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New York Times Publishes Chinese Scientist’s Coronavirus Op-Ed Without Making Key Disclosures

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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  • The New York Times published an op-ed from a Chinese scientist blasting the United States’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Unacknowledged in the op-ed is the Chinese Communist Party’s firm control of the university that employs the scientist, Yi Rao.
  • Rao has also taken credit for proposing the controversial Thousand Talents Program, which Beijing has used to recruit researchers at American universities. 
  • Rao ignored the numerous allegations that the Chinese government has lied about its own response to coronavirus. 

The New York Times published Wednesday an op-ed about the coronavirus pandemic from a scientist at a Chinese Communist Party-controlled university who renounced his American citizenship and has taken credit for proposing a talent recruitment program that U.S. officials believe is being used to steal American research.

Yi Rao, a researcher at Peking University, told the story of his uncle Eric, who died in New York in May after a two-month battle with coronavirus. He asserted that Eric would have survived if he still lived in China.

“All my relatives in Wuhan are safe. Uncle Eric died in New York after the pandemic had moved to the United States,” Rao wrote.

“The United States had two months or more to learn from China’s experience with this coronavirus, and it could have done much more to lower infection rates and fatalities,” he continued. (RELATED: China Didn’t Alert WHO To Coronavirus Outbreak)

The op-ed leaves out several pieces of information about China’s own response to the virus, as well as Rao’s background.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton blasted The Times over the op-ed, calling it “explicit Chinese propaganda.” He noted that an op-ed he placed with The Times in May led to a staff revolt at the newspaper that ended in the firing of James Bennet as opinion page editor.

Rao, who lived in the U.S. for 22 years, disclosed in the op-ed that he renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2007 because of  the Bush administration’s response to 9/11. But the story did not reveal Rao’s visa issues, or his support for the Thousand Talents Program, a Beijing-led initiative to recruit researchers at American universities and government agencies.

Rao revealed in July 2018 that he has had his visa to the U.S. denied multiple times since 2016 for reasons unknown.

Rao has been an outspoken defender of the Thousand Talents Program, telling the Times for a story in February that it was “a fat lie” that the Chinese government uses the initiative to steal American research.

The story detailed U.S. officials’ concerns about the program, which is at the center of indictments of several American and Chinese researchers, including Harvard professor Charles Lieber.

An FBI counterintelligence memo from 2015 said that the talent program is a “vital part of Chinese industry.”

“The large number of foreign students, researchers, scientists, and professionals in the United States, combined with current technological capabilities, allows foreign governments to contact and recruit individuals with the hopes to acquire advanced technology without research costs,” the memo says.

The Times reported in its February article that Rao was one of the scientists who proposed the talent program.

Peking University, where Rao is a chair professor, has come under increased communist party control in the last few years.

CNN reported in November 2018 that the Communist Party began a crackdown of student groups at Peking University. The party installed one of its representatives, Hao Ping, as president of the university in 2018, Radio Free Asia reported.

In his op-ed, Rao also criticized the United States over its approach to development of a coronavirus vaccine without noting that Chinese intelligence agencies have allegedly used cyber-attacks to steal vaccine research from U.S. companies.

“As the pandemic rages on in the United States and throughout the world, with some smaller outbreaks in China, the United States and China are not collaborating, but competing, in the search for a successful vaccine for the virus and treatment measures for the disease,” he wrote.

The U.S. government charged two Chinese hackers on Tuesday with trying to steal vaccine research on behalf of Chinese intelligence.

The Times published a story about the indictments, though they are not mentioned in Rao’s piece.

The newspaper did not respond to a request for comment.

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