Washington [US]: Chinese Ambassador in Washington and a Chinese diplomat in New York city secretly aided in the recruitment of scientists in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
An affidavit, filed in federal court last year and unsealed in April, gives a deeper look into China's tactics, Washington Examiner reported. US officials have often expressed concern about Beijing's espionage capabilities.
According to Examiner, the affidavit was first reported by the Daily Beast on Monday and the word 'China' is almost entirely redacted from the court filing, though it does appear at least once.
An FBI agent who specializes in counterintelligence wrote in the affidavit that the FBI was investigating a scientist in Connecticut who was "knowingly and willfully working in the United States on behalf of government-controlled and government-directed entities for the purpose of recruiting high-level molecular genetics and stem cell stem cell researchers to work at state-controlled universities and laboratories in [China], and for the purpose of acquiring and transferring to those state-controlled universities and laboratories, cutting-edge molecular genetics and stem-cell research and technology developed at leading academic and private-sector research platforms in the United States."
The FBI further pointed out that "those efforts are undertaken ... with the [Chinese] government's publicly-declared national security objectives of technology transfer and human capital acquisition."
The scientist, whose name was redacted in court documents, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in November 2009 and spent years working in genetic research in America, most recently at a redacted school determined to be Yale University, which told the FBI it had no policy requiring researchers or professors to disclose their involvement with outside entities. The school did not respond to the Washington Examiner's request for comment.
The scientist is now believed to be working at Southern Medical University in China.
The Homeland Security Department determined that between October 2017 and October 2018, the scientist spent 300 days outside the US. The FBI affidavit suggested that the professor was associated with China's Thousand Talents Program, revealing he was associated with efforts to recruit other scientists to share their research with or to work in China.
The unredacted version of the affidavit does not name Cui Tiankai, who has been ambassador to the US since 2013, or the diplomat in New York City.
The Chinese Embassy denied that its diplomats in the US aided in the recruitment of scientists.
"The allegation is nothing but malicious fabrication," spokeswoman Fang Hong said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.
The Justice Department began the China Initiative in 2018 to combat the espionage threat, and the US has arrested and charged a number of scientists who have participated in the Thousand Talents Program.
At least 54 scientists have lost their jobs over a failure to disclose financial ties to foreign governments, the National Institutes of Health said earlier this month.