Harvard Professor Charles Lieber Convicted of Lying About China Ties

Harvard Professor Charles Lieber Convicted of Lying About China Ties
Harvard University nanotechnology professor Charles Lieber arrives at the federal courthouse in Boston on Dec. 14, 2021. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

A Harvard University professor was found guilty by a U.S. jury on Dec. 21 of lying to authorities about his ties to the Thousand Talents Plan, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) well-financed job recruitment program.

Charles Lieber, 62, former chairman of Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, was found guilty by a federal jury in Boston on all counts—six felony charges made up of two counts of making false statements, two counts of filing false tax returns, and two counts of failing to file reports for a foreign bank account in China.

The jury arrived at the verdict after 2 hours and 45 minutes of deliberations and five days of testimony.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Lieber agreed in 2011 to become a “strategic scientist" at the Wuhan University of Technology in China and that he had participated in the CCP’s Thousand Talents Plan while working on sensitive U.S. research. Lieber was also a contractual participant in the program from at least 2012 through 2017, according to court documents.

Prosecutors alleged that Lieber had filed false tax returns to misrepresent the funding that he received from the Chinese regime's program. This included $50,000 per month plus $158,000 in living expenses and more than $1.5 million in grants from the Wuhan University of Technology.

Prosecutors also alleged that he lied about his role in the program in response to inquiries from the U.S. Defense Department and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The CCP’s Thousand Talents Program has been in place since December 2008, targeting high-level overseas experts. It has been flagged by U.S. authorities over its threats to national security.
Lieber was first charged in January 2020 and then later in June and July 2020, as part of the Department of Justice’s "China Initiative," which was launched in 2018 under the Trump administration. The initiative sought to prosecute cases of economic espionage and research theft initiated by the CCP against the United States.

President Joe Biden's administration has continued the initiative, though the Justice Department has said it is reviewing its approach.

Since Lieber's arrest on the Harvard campus in January 2020, he has been on paid administrative leave.

Lieber, who is currently battling late-stage lymphoma, will be sentenced at a later hearing, The Harvard Crimson reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.