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SIUC math professor on trial, accused of grant fraud involving China
May 4, 2022
An SIUC applied mathematics professor is on trial in Benton, Illinois, this week, accused of hiding assets from China while getting grant funding from the U.S. government.
Mingqing Xiao, 59, of Makanda, Illinois, is accused of getting a $151,099 in federal grant money from the National Science Foundation by concealing support he was receiving from an arm of the Chinese government and a Chinese public university. He was indicted on multiple counts of wire fraud, along with tax fraud and failure to report a foreign bank account.
Some students and members of the SIUC faculty have held protests in support of Xiao. A GoFundMe page has been set up for his legal defense costs. The rallying cry of these supporters is, “I stand with Ming.”
The fundraiser seeks to raise $350,000 and, as of May 4, was 10 percent to that goal.
The introduction on the GoFundMe page said, “Professor Xiao has contributed enormously to our local community: for the past eight years, he has volunteered tremendous time to teach Math to pre-college students and has served as the math coach for our local middle school. For his efforts, he is beloved, and recently received the “Good Neighbor” Award from WSIU Public Broadcasting last November. Dr. Xiao will have to incur significant legal expenses—perhaps over $1,000,000—to defend against these serious federal charges, which is simply unaffordable for any ordinary citizen.”
Science magazine reports Xiao is one of two dozen U.S. academics prosecuted under a U.S. government crackdown called the China Initiative.
A Justice Department press release called the initiative “an effort to safeguard
American intellectual property and research programs and counter the multi-faceted threat posed by the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government to U.S. national security.”
The Justice Department said China lacks innovative scientists and is working to recruit “‘non-traditional collectors’ in academia to acquire U.S. technologies and intellectual property.”
“We know that China exploits American universities to further the aims of the Chinese Communist Party,” said U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft. “That’s one reason why the National Science Foundation requires applicants to disclose all sources of support, including foreign ties, as a condition to receive federal grant funding. Prosecutions like this one play a critical role, not just in protecting American investments in academic research from foreign exploitation, but also in combating the growing threat that China poses to our national security.”
The introduction on the GoFundMe page said, “Where the government has failed to find evidence of economic espionage, it has nonetheless chosen to criminally charge people for administrative errors or minor offenses, such as failing to fully disclose conflict of interest information to their universities or research institutions. Universities previously handled matters such as non-disclosures in an administrative process, but now these issues have been criminalized.”
The judge in the case has granted a motion for acquittal on two counts, but denied the motion on five additional counts.
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