The US government on Tuesday charged a Harvard University professor and two researchers in Boston with lying about their alleged ties to the Chinese government.
It was the latest case of US authorities targeting what they have labeled as scientific espionage on the part of the Chinese. The US has accused China of attempting to steal American scientific and technological advances.
"This is a very carefully directed effort by the Chinese government to fill what it views as its own strategic gaps," Andrew Lelling, US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, told reporters in a news conference.
Harvard University professor Charles Lieber, chair of the chemistry and chemical biology department, was accused of taking part in China's Thousand Talents Plan, a program designed to lure people with knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property to China.
According to prosecutors, Lieber received payments from China, including $50,000 (€45,000) a month from Wuhan University of Technology, and lied to investigators about it.
In exchange, authorities say Lieber agreed to publish articles, organize international conferences and apply for patents on behalf of a Chinese university.
Two Chinese researchers arrested
Boston University researcher Yanqing Ye was accused of lying about being a lieutenant in China's military and having concealed this information when she obtained her US visa.
Authorities alleged she sent documents and information to China while she was conducting her university research.
The third person charged, Zaosong Zheng, was a cancer researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Zheng was arrested last month when he allegedly tried to smuggle 21 vials containing sensitive biological samples out of the country, concealed in socks in his suitcase.
Both Harvard and Boston Universities said they were cooperating with authorities.
"The charges brought by the U.S. government against Professor Lieber are extremely serious," Harvard said in a statement.
According to the US Justice Department, since the beginning of 2018, charges have been leveled in at least three dozen federal cases involving alleged economic, scientific and technological espionage connected to China.
Both American and Chinese nationals have been implicated in the investigations.