The Charlottesville U.S. Attorney’s office dropped all charges of trade secret theft and computer intrusion against visiting Chinese scientist Haizhou Hu. The prosecution determined that some of the trade secrets were within Hu’s authorized access while at University of Virginia (UVA).
Hu has ties to the Chinese military. The researcher works for the Chinese Key Laboratory for Fluid Dynamics at China’s Beihang University, which the Chinese government and military both fund.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Hu also admitted that he “did not have lawful, authorized access” to the material and that those he’d worked for “would not want him to have it.”
Prior to his arrest, Hu had been working under UVA professor Dr. Haibo Dong for five months. Their research continued nearly two decades of work on understanding animal physics within flying and swimming. The main sponsors of the research are the U.S. government’s National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research. Their “theoretical fluid dynamics” produces information for military technology, such as underwater robots and aircraft engines.
Hu first approached Dong in 2017, after the UVA professor gave a lecture on his research. The Chinese national came onto Dong’s team in 2019. Hu told investigators that the Chinese Scholarship Council required him to relay his research every six months.
Authorities apprehended Hu when he attempted to board a flight to China with stolen research information. All 17 years’ worth of Dong’s computer code was in Hu’s possession.
Hu isn’t the only Chinese national involved in U.S. university research who attempted to leave the country. The FBI arrested another Chinese national earlier this month. The researcher, Yang Zhihui, had agreed to serve as a witness against another Chinese researcher – her fiance, Guan Lei.
Guan was under investigation for possibly stealing information while researching at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Guan also attempted to fly back to China with a computer he refused to let the FBI examine.
Earlier this summer, a Chinese military member was arrested for posing as a researcher at the University of California – Davis.
UVA didn’t offer a comment on the matter of Hu’s trial.
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