Senators unveil bill to curb foreign spying on US campuses

Congress calls for clampdown on Chinese students suspected of spying and intellectual property theft at US universities.

A bipartisan group of United States senators unveiled legislation on Thursday aimed at protecting research and innovation on US college campuses and preventing suspected theft of intellectual property by China and other countries.

The bill comes amid a growing push in Washington, DC to clamp down on spying and intellectual property theft that some Chinese nationals are suspected of engaging in on US university and college campuses.


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The “Safeguarding American Innovation Act” proposes to strengthen the State Department’s authority to deny visas to foreign nationals seeking access to certain sensitive technologies related to US national security and economic security interests.

It proposes penalising individuals with fines and imprisonment for failing to disclose foreign support on federal grant applications and would lower the threshold for US schools and universities to report foreign gifts.

The bill, co-sponsored by US senators including Rob Portman, Tom Carper, Marco Rubio and Maggie Hassan, aims to give the Department of Education authority to punish US schools that fail to properly report gifts received from foreign entities.

“This bill will help us stop foreign governments from stealing our research and innovation while also increasing transparency to ensure that taxpayers know when colleges and universities accept significant foreign funding,” Portman said in a statement.

In one of the highest-profile cases to emerge from a US Justice Department crackdown on Chinese influence within universities, a Harvard University professor pleaded not guilty on June 16 to charges that he lied to US authorities about his ties to a China-run recruitment programme and funding he received from the Chinese government for research.

Reuters, citing sources, reported last month that the US is planning to cancel the visas of thousands of Chinese graduate students believed by Trump administration to have links with China’s military.

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