China stops promoting 'Thousand Talents Plan'

Beijing suspends talent program amid US espionage charges

John Harvard statue at Harvard University.

John Harvard statue at Harvard University. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A much-hyped talent recruitment program in China has reportedly been swept under the rug as the FBI ramps up its investigation into individuals suspected of serving Chinese interests via the program.

The Thousand Talents Plan (TTP, 千人計畫), or Thousand Talents Program, launched in 2008 to attract talent from home and abroad in areas ranging from scientific research to innovation, has been excluded from Chinese official propaganda, wrote CNA. Chinese authorities reportedly ordered government mouthpieces to stop promoting the project in September 2018.

An official document said to be circulating online states that the plan's name should not appear in any public notice, reported Hong Kong Economic Times. In addition, mention of the project has been censored on Weibo and other Chinese social media since April, reported CNA.

TTP involves recruiting strategically important scientists in key innovation programs, laboratories, state corporations, and high-tech parks. This has raised the eyebrows of the U.S government, which believes it to be a pipeline to channel American technologies and intellectual property into China.

A number of U.S. and Chinese nationals have been accused of lying about their roles in this talent program. In January of this year, Harvard University chemistry professor Charles Lieber was charged for concealing his ties with the TTP and Ye Yanqing (葉顏沁), who U.S. prosecutors say is a lieutenant in the People’s Liberation Army who was conducting research on behalf of the Chinese military while studying at Boston University, reported AP.

As of November 2019, at least 72 Taiwanese professionals had enlisted in the TTP, said Zhu Fenglian (朱鳳蓮), spokeswoman for the Taiwan Affairs Office.