Li Chen pleaded guilty Thursday before a U.S. District Court to a conspiracy to steal information from a children’s hospital in Ohio and sell it to China, the Justice Department announced Thursday. Chen, who was a respected and trusted researcher at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute in Columbus, admitted to stealing and selling exosomes and exosome isolation from the facility.
“Once again we see the People’s Republic of China (PRC) facilitating the theft of our nation’s ingenuity and hard work as part of their quest to rob, replicate and replace any product they don’t have the ability to develop themselves,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
Chen said she established a company in China to sell the exomes that play key roles in treating medical conditions common in premature babies and patients with liver issues, the DOJ said. Ultimately, Chen sold the information to the Chinese government and was rewarded by China’s State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, according to the DOJ.
Demers added, “Far from being an isolated incident, we see the PRC implicated in around 60 percent of all trade secret theft cases. This continued economic belligerence runs contrary to the values and norms that facilitate the success of our industries and countering it remains among our highest priorities.”
Chen’s husband, Yu Zhou, 49, was also roped into the scheme, working in the same research center. The couple was arrested in July 2019, the DOJ press release stated. Together, the couple stole “at least five trade secrets,” according to the Justice Department.
Chen agreed as part of her plea agreement to relinquish over $1 million, 500,000 stock shares of Avalon GloboCare Corp., and 400 shares of stock in GenExosome Technologies Inc., DOJ said.
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Husband of Biden’s Commerce Secretary is Top Executive at Firm Funded by Chinese Government
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has a conflict of interest. She must work with her agency to combat and counter China on the world stage, all while supporting her husband’s position as a top executive for an artificial intelligence company whose major venture capital firm investor Is backed by the Chinese government.
Danhua Capital is based in California and is financially backed by the Chinese Communist Party. They are also one of the main funders of PathAI, an artificial intelligence firm that employs Raimondo’s husband, Andy Moffit. Moffit acts as the chief people officer.
The Chinese firm lists PathAI as one of its featured “biotech and health” investments on its website, although it’s unclear how much specifically Danhua Capital has invested. According to a 2018 Reuters report on the firm, Danhua Capital was established and funded as part of the Chinese government’s “penetration of Silicon Valley.”
In 2018, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) testified before Congress that Danhua Capital’s mission is to use capital to narrow the technology gap between China and the United States. The Washington Free Beacon reports that many staffers from CNAS, a liberal think tank, are now employed in the highest ranks of the Biden administration.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Raimondo’s agency was pushing back on efforts by others in the Biden administration to block Chinese technology firms from working with American companies. Commerce officials are arguing internally, according to the report, that the administration’s tougher approach to China would hurt U.S. companies.
Raimondo said on Thursday she would not urge U.S. companies to pull sponsorships from the upcoming Beijing Olympics after President Joe Biden announced a diplomatic boycott of the games over human rights abuses. “What individual companies do is entirely up to them,” Raimondo said. “We’re not going to pressure them one way or another.”
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