WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has introduced legislation designed to protect the nation’s research from being stolen by China.
The bill comes about following a year-long investigation by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is chaired by Portman.
The report found more than 100 U.S. colleges and universities received funding from Chinese officials in the form of funding for Confucious Institutes. It also found several universities failed to report the financing, and the FBI did not investigate the problem as it should have.
“It deals with two decades of China and other countries coming to America with talent recruitment programs, meaning they systematically identify promising researchers and they pay them to take their research,” Portman said.
“It’s something that has been going on, kind of under our nose, and as the FBI said when they testified before our hearing, it’s been going on for too long and we’ve been asleep at the wheel,” Portman added.
He said the FBI and Justice Department have become more aggressive in handling the problem, including several cases of researchers being arrested who misstated on applications for federal funding where other funding comes from.
However, Portman pointed out this practice is not currently illegal, though his bill would make it so. Instead, those being arrested are done so using a method similar to the one that eventually captured infamous crime boss Al Capone.
“These people that are being arrested now are being arrested on things like tax evasion, by not reporting the income,” Portman said.
He also said the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently conducted its own investigation, and as a result, 54 scientists have been fired or resigned.
“According to NIH, more than 90% of the scientists investigated had ties close to China,” Portman said.
“This is a big deal, and it’s something we need to get our colleges and our research institutes more engaged in,” he added.
Portman said the legislation isn’t designed to point the finger at China, but rather get “our house in order.”