NYT Publishes Op-Ed by Chinese Professor Without Disclosing Ties to Beijing

Activists from the group Extinction Rebellion block traffic on 8th Avenue in front of the New York Times building and the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., June 22, 2019. (Jefferson Siegel/Reuters)

The New York Times on Wednesday published an op-ed by a Chinese scientist without noting that the professor has taken credit for helping create the Thousand Talents Program, which funds the work of foreign scientists in exchange for their agreeing to share information about their work with Beijing.

In his Times op-ed, Yi Rao, a neuromolecular biologist at Peking University, lamented the death of his uncle in New York during the coronavirus pandemic. Yi claimed that his uncle would have survived if he had been in Wuhan, where the pandemic began and where residents have said the death toll may have reached as high as 40,000.

The Times did not disclose that Peking University, where Yi teaches, has cracked down on dissent and deepened its ties to the Chinese Communist Party since 2018.

Yi stated in a February Times article that he proposed the Thousand Talents Program, by which the Chinese government funds research grants for scientists. The U.S. government has charged a number of researchers participating in the program with intellectual property theft, while the head of Harvard’s chemistry department was indicted in January for failing to disclose his ties to the program.

“While association with a Talent Program is not illegal, it can create incentives to steal, violate export controls, or (at a minimum) conflicts of interest,” John Demers, chief of the national security division at the Justice Department, said in November.

The Times also did not disclose that Yi has been denied a visa to enter the U.S. despite multiple applications since 2016. The reasons for the denials were not given by the U.S. government.

Yi has been harshly critical of the U.S. response to the coronavirus, and has mocked President Trump’s handling of the crisis on his blog on the Caixin website, 40 percent of which is controlled by a state-owned media conglomerate.

On June 5, 1981, AIDS was reported in the US for the first time,” Yi wrote in one post. “According to the ‘stable genius’s’ logic, shouldn’t AIDS be called American Sexually Transmitted Disease, and HIV the American Sexually Transmitted Virus?” (President Trump has referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus” or “Wuhan virus,” a term proposed by deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger to counter China’s attempts to cover up its failure to control the initial outbreak.)

Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) mocked the Times‘s decision to carry the op-ed after some of the paper’s openly criticized the decision to publish Cotton’s own op-ed in early June, in which he called to use the military to quell massive riots in American cities. The staff revolt led to the firing of the Times‘s opinion editor James Bennett, as well as an apology from the paper for running Cotton’s piece.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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