US Energy Dept blocks participation in China’s ‘Thousand Talents’ program

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WASHINGTON, June 13, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – The US Department of Energy has moved
to block its scientists from participating in China’s controversial “Thousand
Talents” program in order to protect US competitive strengths and national
security.

An order issued quietly last week said department staff and contractors
would be barred from involvement in a foreign government’s talent recruitment
program that involves unauthorized transfer of scientific and technical
information.

The order, obtained by AFP on Wednesday, did not mention any specific
country.

But officials pointed to Beijing’s “Thousand Talents” program, which
offers rewards and high pay to lure ethnic Chinese working overseas and non-
Chinese to deliver top-level technology to China.

US security officials say the Energy Department, which conducts advanced
research in everything from particle accelerators to supercomputers to
nuclear weapons, has been a particular target of the program, which aims to
help China catch up to more technologically advanced economies.

“While international cooperation is essential to accelerate research and
development, some governments, like the Chinese Communist Party, are
aggressively pursuing access to foreign science and technology advancements
and intellectual property to the detriment of our economic prosperity and
security,” a department official said on condition of anonymity.

“In addition to illicit acquisition of US technology through intellectual
property theft and forced technology transfer, DOE is concerned about things
such as undisclosed foreign government or institutional affiliations by US
researchers, undisclosed funding of US researchers from foreign government
talent recruitment programs, and breaches of the peer review process,” the
official said.

The move comes amid heightened tensions over Chinese economic espionage,
alleged state-ordered theft of intellectual property, and a growing trade war
between the two countries.

US agencies with research arms have discovered a number of cases of
scientists cooperating with the decade-old “Thousand Talents” program without
permission to share their own or others’ work.

In May, the FBI arrested Turab Lookman, a scientist at the Los Alamos
National Laboratory in New Mexico, one of the most sensitive Energy
Department facilities, on charges that he lied about his participation in the
Chinese program.

And in April, a cancer research center of the National Institutes of
Health ousted an ethnically Chinese scientist related to his ties to the
program.

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