Chinese prof who studied in US convicted of stealing American trade secrets

  • A Chinese professor has been convicted of stealing U.S. intelligence and trade secrets.
  • Tianjin University in China assisted Zhang to steal trade secrets from U.S. businesses.
  • According to a Justice Department news release in 2015, Zhang was once a doctoral student at a U.S. university in California.

A Chinese professor who studied in the U.S. has been found guilty of stealing American trade secrets, with the help of a Chinese university. 

The Department of Justice released a statement announcing that Chinese citizen Hao Zhang is guilty of economic espionage and stealing trade secrets. The report reveals that Zhang stole trade secrets from Avago and Skyworks - two companies that specialize in improving the performance of wireless technologies. Advancement in wireless devices would benefit both Chinese consumers and their military. 

"By combatting theft, we protect innovation and freedom"   

According to Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, Zhang had “plotted with Tianjin University to take trade secrets from two U.S. companies, including his own employer, to China for the benefit of the Chinese Government.”

While in China in 2006, Zhang had worked alongside other conspirators to start a business that would compete with Avago and Skyworks. At the same time, Wei Pang, a named co-conspirator, began working at Avango. The DOJ reports that they “illicitly shared trade secrets with each other and with co-conspirators in China while they worked for the U.S. companies.”

[RELATED: Chinese military officer arrested, suspected of trying to steal US research]

Zhang and co-conspirators went on to open up another business called Novana in the Cayman Islands,  with the help of “Tianjin University (TJU) in China, an instrumentality of the Chinese government.” 

The technology and intelligence that they stole from Avango had taken the company more than two decades of research to develop.

Multiple media outlets have described Zhang as a Chinese professor. In May 2015, the Justice Department announced the arrest of Tianjin University Professor Hao Zhang as he arrived in the U.S. from China. Five other individuals faced similar economic espionage charges in that sting. According to the Justice Department, Zhang conspired with Huisui Zhang, a Chinese citizen who studied with Hao Zhang at an unnamed U.S. university in Southern California. 

"Wei Pang and Hao Zhang met at a U.S. university in Southern California during their doctoral studies in electrical engineering.  While there, Pang and Zhang conducted research and development on thin-film bulk acoustic resonator (FBAR) technology under funding from U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  After earning their doctorate in approximately 2005, Pang accepted employment as an FBAR engineer with Avago Technologies (Avago) in Colorado and Zhang accepted employment as an FBAR engineer with Skyworks Solutions Inc. (Skyworks) in Massachusetts.  The stolen trade secrets alleged in the indictment belong to Avago or Skyworks," the DOJ said in 2015.

FBI Special Agent in Charge John Bennett said Friday that “economic Espionage is a pervasive threat throughout the United States.” Despite this case showing “how easily a few motivated employees can conspire to misappropriate intellectual property for the benefit of the People’s Republic of China,” Bennet says that this case should “serve as a warning” to countries determined to steal U.S. intellectual property. 

U.S. Attorney David Anderson said that countries like China look to steal information due to their lack of freedom. 

Since the “U.S. is naturally innovative,” America must recognize that “theft is not innovation." 

"By combatting theft, we protect innovation and freedom," Anderson said.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @KestecherLacey



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Lacey Kestecher
Lacey Kestecher | New York Campus Correspondent

Lacey Kestecher is a New York Campus Correspondent, reporting on liberal bias and abuse on college campuses for Campus Reform. She is originally from Asbury, New Jersey and currently studies Business Administration and Finance at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York. On campus, Lacey is the Founder and President of Turning Point USA and Vice President of the College Republicans. Lacey also serves as the Social Media Specialist for the Binghamton Review. Lacey is a Campus Reform intern this summer.

20 Articles by Lacey Kestecher