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4 Feb, 2022 15:25

US university reinstates professor acquitted over ties with China

The nanotechnology expert was charged with hiding his connection to a Beijing institution
US university reinstates professor acquitted over ties with China

The University of Tennessee has reinstated a professor who was indicted and then exonerated on charges of keeping his connections with a Chinese university secret while receiving NASA grants.

Anming Hu, a nanotechnology expert, returned to his position at the university in Knoxville this week with tenure, his lawyer told local media on Thursday. He also received $300,000 to fund his further research, and was granted a laboratory similar to the one he had before he lost his position.

“It’s a new beginning. Even though I suffered a lot – it’s still painful in my heart – and the damage with my reputation, to my family, I think we have to move on. Very important things that we learn the lesson from the past and I don't want to waste the time,” said Hu in a telephone interview with Knox News.

Anming Hu was arrested in February 2020 for alleged wire fraud and making false statements. He was accused of hiding the fact he was working for a Chinese institution when he applied for a NASA grant.

The case went to court last June, but after two days of discussions the jury deadlocked. At the same time, Anming Hu was suspended without pay and eventually fired from the University of Tennessee, which was revealed to have concealed federal charges against its employee.

From that moment, Hu was trying to get back his position, until the last attempt to retry the case was rejected by the judge in September 2021.

Anming Hu began working at the University of Tennessee in 2013, and was later invited to apply for a NASA research grant. NASA researchers are forbidden to collaborate with China or Chinese companies by a law adopted in 2012. Dr Hu, who was a faculty member at Beijing University of Technology at the same time he worked for UT, was accused of trying to hide his links. His defense blamed his failure to disclose the ties on some paperwork related to NASA projects – which the government claimed proved an attempt to defraud NASA – to labyrinthine rules that even people in the space agency struggle to navigate.

His case was marked with a scandal, as during the first trial, it was revealed that the FBI apparently attempted to recruit him. An FBI agent also went to UT management to inform them that Hu may be a Chinese military spy, despite having no evidence.