In DepthForeign Influence

Scientists caught in U.S. crackdown on China

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Science  31 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6443, pp. 811-812
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6443.811

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Three more senior scientists have been caught up in the crackdown on researchers who receive U.S. government funds and allegedly fail to disclose ties to China. First, a husband-and-wife team of neuroscientists at Emory University in Atlanta, Li Xiao-Jiang and Li Shihua, on 16 May learned that the school had fired them and shuttered their lab. The Lis have worked at Emory for 23 years, both are U.S. citizens, and Li Xiao-Jiang is tenured. In a statement to Science, the Lis insisted they had disclosed their ties to China, and this was a misunderstanding about discussions in progress regarding patents, future contracts, and the founding of a potential biotechnology company. Emory also terminated many of their lab workers, forcing four postdoctoral students to return to China within 30 days. The Lis are well known for their work in developing animal models for Huntington disease. Li Xiao-Jiang is part of the Thousand Talents Program, which aims to recruit researchers back to China and is a central concern of the U.S. government. The third case involves the arrest of physicist Turab Lookman, who formerly worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. A 22 May indictment alleges that Lookman lied to the federal government about his application to and acceptance in the Thousand Talents Program. In contrast to the Lis, Lookman was charged with a federal crime and was taken into custody. He has pleaded not guilty and at press time was on home detention.