(Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation on Thursday aimed at protecting research and innovation on U.S. campuses and preventing suspected theft of intellectual property by China and other countries.
There is a growing push in Washington to clamp down on spying and intellectual property theft that some Chinese nationals are suspected of engaging in at U.S. universities and colleges.
The “Safeguarding American Innovation Act” proposes to strengthen the U.S. State Department’s authority to deny visas to foreign nationals seeking access to certain sensitive technologies related to U.S. national security and economic security interests.
It also proposes penalizing individuals with fines and imprisonment for failing to disclose foreign support on federal grant applications, as well as lowering the threshold for U.S. schools and universities to report foreign gifts.
“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,” Senator Rob Portman, a Republican and lead sponsor, said in a statement.
The bill, co-sponsored by at least nine Republicans and six Democrats, also aims to give the Department of Education authority to punish U.S. schools that fail to properly report gifts received from foreign entities.
In one of the highest-profile cases to emerge from a crackdown on Chinese influence within universities, a Harvard University professor pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges that he lied to authorities about his ties to a China-run recruitment program and funding he received from the Chinese government for research.
Reuters, citing sources, reported last month that the United States is planning to cancel the visas of thousands of Chinese graduate students believed by the Trump administration to have links with China’s military.
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Paul Simao)