Yet another prosecution alleging that an academic failed to report ties to China illustrates the government’s multi-agency focus on this issue and the costs and pressures imposed on U.S. universities.
A Texas A&M engineering professor and NASA researcher was arrested and charged with several crimes stemming from allegedly hiding his ties to Chinese companies and universities. In a criminal complaint unsealed on August 23, 2020, the DOJ charged Zhengdong Cheng with making false statements, conspiracy, and wire fraud based on allegations that he willfully deceived NASA and Texas A&M in connection with obtaining a NASA research grant. Federal law prohibits NASA from entering into collaboration or coordination with China or any Chines-owned company.
The case against Cheng represents only a part of Texas A&M’s interactions with the government on this issue. Over a year ago, on June 13, 2019, the U.S. Department of Education sent letters to Texas A&M and Georgetown explaining that the agency believed the schools were not fully reporting all funding received from other countries, including China. At that time, Texas A&M said in a statement that school officials “are reviewing it and hope to have this resolved soon.”