UPDATED 10:29 AM PT — Wednesday, May 13, 2020
A professor at the University of Arkansas was arrested for hiding his ties to the Chinese government. A criminal complaint was unsealed Monday detailing the accusations against Professor Simon Ang who graduated from the school back in 1980.
Ang began teaching there just eight years later, eventually becoming the director of the High Density Electronics Center. Since 2013, he received $5 million in grant money from federal agencies, including NASA.
When applying for those grants, however, Ang failed to reveal his connections to the Chinese government or that he was working with Chinese companies. He was arrested Friday after an investigation by the Department of Justice.
It all started when an employee at the University of Arkansas discovered a hard-drive in the library’s lost and found. The device was examined with the hope that its owner could be determined based on its contents. Instead, incriminating emails, allegedly from Ang, were uncovered.
In one email, the professor wrote to a visiting researcher from a university in China. He noted the growing challenge in keeping his “secret hidden.” The email read: “there are things that are becoming very difficult for me recently because of the political climate.”
In another email, Ang referenced an elaborate scheme by China to attract foreign researchers and convince Chinese scientists living abroad to return home. This email read: “you can search the Chinese website regarding what the U.S. will do to Thousand Talent scholars…not many people here know I am one of them, but if this leaks out, my job here will be in deep troubles.”
U.S. officials are concerned over the Thousand Talents Program. Some have claimed it encourages “economic espionage” and intellectual property theft.
“For China, international scientific collaboration is not solely about advancing science for the global good,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). “It is by their own admission about advancing China’s national security and economic interest.”
Ang is being held at the Washington County Jail and is facing up to 20-years behind bars. The University of Arkansas acknowledged his arrest, but only stated that it’s “cooperating with the investigation.”