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Republicans seek information on Chinese ties to US universities

Republicans seek information on Chinese ties to US universities
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are seeking information from the Education Department on China's ties to leading U.S. universities, as tensions mount between the two countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Republicans, led by House Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Cruz on Boehner: 'I wear with pride his drunken, bloviated scorn' MORE (Ohio), sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Education Department moves to reverse Trump-era rules on campus sexual misconduct Watchdog says DeVos made nine figures in outside income during Trump years MORE on Monday asking for details on what he characterized as the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) efforts to influence American colleges.

“We write to seek a better understanding of the Department’s efforts to address unreported foreign direct investment into the U.S. higher education system,” the House Republicans wrote. “This joint inquiry is in furtherance of Congressional Republican’s efforts to investigate the Chinese government’s propaganda and cover-up campaign surrounding this pandemic.”

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The House members asked DeVos to provide documentation on all U.S. universities under investigation for receiving foreign gifts since 2018, and any preliminary findings from those investigations.

The letter was signed by ranking members on other House committees, including Reps. Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxRepublicans argue school accountability waivers overstep Education secretary authority House passes bill aimed at strengthening unions Republicans call for investigation into impact of school closures on children with disabilities MORE (N.C.), Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Lobbying world Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto MORE (Texas), Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersBiden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike Biden's prediction on Afghanistan withdrawal spurs doubts Republicans downplay military's extremism issue in hearing MORE (Ala.), Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesRepublican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC What good are the intelligence committees? CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be MORE (Calif.), and Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulOvernight Defense: Biden makes his Afghanistan decision Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Biden to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 MORE (Texas).

The Department of Education has launched an investigation of its own into at least one major school system. The agency is looking into ties between the University of Texas and the Chinese lab being investigated by U.S. intelligence officials for potentially being linked to the COVID-19 outbreak. A university official told The Hill they would cooperate with the investigation.

Jordan tied the COVID-19 tensions between Washington and Beijing to his concerns over Chinese influence on U.S. universities and colleges.

“We cannot allow a dangerous communist regime to buy access to our institutions of higher education, plain and simple,” Jordan said in a statement. “The Chinese Communist Party’s coverup of the early outbreak of the coronavirus immeasurably worsened this disease’s impact on the United States and the world. We owe it to the American people to hold China accountable and to prevent them from doing further harm to our country.”

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Concerns over Chinese ties to U.S. academic institutions also extend to intellectual property theft.

The Justice Department has taken multiple steps against leading professors at American institutions for their connections to China.

An associate professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville was arrested by federal authorities and charged with concealing his relationship with a Chinese university in February, while the chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department was arrested in January for lying about ties to China.