Law enforcement briefings played a role in the Aug. 26 decision to cancel visas for Chinese researchers working at the University of North Texas.
All 15 researchers, none of whom have been publicly identified, were in the country through their affiliation with the Chinese Scholarship Council.
Jim Berscheidt, a UNT spokesperson, said Wednesday, “UNT took this action based upon specific and credible information following detailed briefings from federal and local law enforcement.”
He declined to specify which agencies conducted the briefings, and he did not clarify what kept him from answering further questions. He said it would be up to law enforcement “if and when” more information is released.
“We are not the law enforcement agencies they mentioned,” Allison Beckwith, a spokesperson for the Denton Police Department, said. “We have nothing to do with that case.”
Stacy Turkoly, a spokesperson for the Denton County Sheriff’s Office, said, “We don’t have any involvement in that, and we don’t know anything about it.”
A spokesperson for the FBI’s Dallas office declined to comment Wednesday afternoon.
Many of the FBI warnings around Chinese researchers in the United States revolve around China’s Thousand Talents Program, though nobody contacted for this article Wednesday was willing or able to connect that program to the 15 researchers UNT sent home.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, in a speech given on July 7, said the program is an operation in which “the Chinese government tries to entice scientists to secretly bring our knowledge and innovation back to China — even if that means stealing proprietary information or violating our export controls and conflict-of-interest rules.”
UNT professors have spoken against the university’s decision to send the 15 researchers packing, as well as a perceived lack of transparency on the part of their employer.
An online petition to reverse the decision had gained more than 5,500 signatures by Wednesday evening.