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Senior NASA scientist pleads guilty to lying about China involvement

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A senior NASA scientist pleaded guilty Wednesday to lying to authorities about his participation in a program that encourages researchers to develop relationships with China in exchange for grants, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday.

Meyya Meyyappan, of Pacifica, California, was charged with one count of making false statements to the FBI, NASA OIG and the USAO, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Meyyappan participated in the Thousand Talents Program, a Chinese government program to recruit people familiar with foreign technology and intellectual property, and held professorships at universities in China, South Korea and Japan.

On Oct. 27, 2020, Meyyappan was interviewed by the FBI, NASA OIG and the USAO, in New York, New York. During his interview, he falsely told investigators he was not a member of the Thousand Talents Program and did not hold the professorship in China, prosecutors said.

In a statement, FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said, “Members of U.S. government agencies are strictly prohibited from maintaining undisclosed affiliations with foreign entities.”

“Meyyappan violated this sacred rule, and then lied to FBI agents about it,” Sweeney added.

Prosecutors said Meyyappan joined NASA in 1996, and has held a position of chief scientist for exploration technology at the Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley since 2006.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said, “Meyya Meyyappan held a trusted position at NASA, with access to valuable intellectual property. In violation of the terms of his employment and relevant laws and regulations, Meyyappan failed to disclose participation in a Chinese government recruitment program, and subsequently lied about it to NASA investigators, FBI agents, and our Office. Now, having admitted his crime, Meyyappan awaits sentencing.”

Meyyappan faces up to a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

Meyyappan is scheduled to be sentenced on June 16, the DOJ said.

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REPORT: China has vast network of covert police stations around the world

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China has a vast network of covert police stations abroad, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. These police stations serve consular functions, but are also used by China to crack down on what the CCP deems “illegal” activity of Chinese nationals abroad. The police stations include at least 38 run by the Fuzhou City police, and 22 run by the Qingtian City police. Cities housing these police stations include New York, Toronto (which has three stations), London (two), Paris (three), Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro, and Tokyo.

Key findings of the report are below.

“Persuaded to return”

According to China, China has “persuaded to return [to China]” 230,000 Chinese nationals living aboard from April 2021 to July 2022 alone to face charges of fraud and telecommunications fraud. A Yangxia police station set up in Mozambique, for example, persuaded a Chinese national to return to China after being accused of stealing money from his employer. Chinese authorities also put pressure on the accused family to convince the accused to surrender.

Roughly 54,000 Chinese nationals were persuaded to return from northern Myanmar alone, in the first nine months of 2021. In July 2022, the government of Wenchang City warned that its citizens living in northern Myanmar must check in with their local police stations or face multiple penalties including blocking their children from attending urban schools back in China. Similarly, in February 2022, the government of Liayang City stated that Chinese “illegally staying” in northern Myanmar must return or the bank accounts of their immediate family members could be frozen.

The Nine Forbidden Countries

China has claimed that nine countries contain serious levels of fraud and telecom fraud perpetrated by Chinese nationals. Since November 2021, China has declared that Chinese citizens living in these nine countries must return to China immediately unless they have an “emergency reason” or a “strict necessity” to travel or stay in those countries. Those countries are: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the UAE, and Turkey. However, the report questions whether these countries are truly awash in such fraud, as most of China’s oversees police stations are in the West, and only one of the nine countries (Cambodia) has such a police station. Chinese staying in the nine forbidden countries, as well as threats to family members as stated above, creates a “guilt-by-association” atmosphere intended to repatriate the Chinese nationals.

Conclusion

According to the report, Chinese police stations abroad serve to bypass “bilateral extradition treaties or other mechanisms of judicial cooperation” to cooperate with CCP-linked NGOs which effectively “[sets] up an alternative policing and judicial system within third countries.” Instead of using international judicial cooperation, which establishes due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial, China uses the above “persuade-to-return” methods and transnational police stations to circumvent international law and coerce Chinese nationals to return to China for trials. These policies show the power of China’s long-arm oppression over its own subjects.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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