Updated Apr 26, 2023, 12:00pm EDT
securityEast Asia

Harvard professor to serve six months of house arrest for hiding ties to China

REUTERS/Katherine Taylor

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The News

Charles Lieber, the former chair of Harvard’s chemistry department, has been sentenced to six months of house arrest after he was convicted of lying to the U.S. government about receiving funds from China, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Lieber was sentenced to time served, which included two days in prison, two years of supervised release with half a year of house confinement, and a $50,000 fine. The news was first reported by the Harvard Crimson.

He was found guilty in 2021 on two counts of lying to federal authorities, two counts of falsifying tax returns, and two counts of failing to report foreign finances.

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Federal prosecutors alleged that Lieber had deliberately hid his involvement in China’s Thousand Talents plan — a program designed to recruit people with knowledge of foreign technology to China — to protect his career and reputation.

From roughly 2012 to 2017, he received $50,000 a month from the Wuhan University of Technology, up to $158,000 in living expenses, and more than $1.5 million in grants, according to the Department of Justice. In exchange, he agreed to publish articles under the university’s name, organize conferences, and apply for patents on behalf of the Chinese students, the Guardian reported.

When questioned, Lieber denied his involvement in the Chinese program to U.S. authorities.

While collaborating with the Wuhan University of Technology, Lieber also secured $15,000,000 in grant funding from the National Institute of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense, which requires grantees to declare any financial support from foreign governments.

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Lieber, who is living with late-stage lymphoma, has been on paid administrative leave since being charged more than three years ago.

Last week, his attorneys asked a federal judge to spare him from prison given his poor health and the negative impact the case has had on Lieber’s career. Prosecutors requested a 90-day sentence.