Gov. DeSantis seeks to shield Florida’s universities from Chinese espionage, theft

Gov. DeSantis seeks to shield Florida’s universities from Chinese espionage, theft

June 9, 2021

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Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Tuesday to protect higher education institutions in the state from espionage and intellectual property theft carried out by China’s Communist Party.

Known as HB 7017, the bill requires more transparency and disclosure from scientists, technicians and administrators on foreign support for postsecondary institutions. It also increases scrutiny for research grants.

"Make no mistake — China is a hostile foreign power, and every Governor has the responsibility to protect their education system, and every other entity within their purview, from the espionage and commercial theft undertaken by the Chinese Communist Party," DeSantis said in a statement.

DeSantis’ bill requires universities to disclose foreign donations and grants of $50,000 or more.

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A separate bill would send an individual to prison for as many as five years for stealing or attempting to steal trade secrets willfully and without authorization. The punishment is as many as 15 years for those attempting to sell stolen trade secrets. Penalties increase for individuals or entities acting on behalf of a foreign government.

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Conservatives have previously raised concerns about the influence of the Chinese Communist Party at U.S. schools.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., proposed an amendment earlier this year that would have barred federal funds from U.S. schools that partner with China's Confucius Institutes. It was blocked by House Democrats in February.

Stefanik's push came after the Biden administration withdrew a rule that required schools participating in certain federal programs to disclose ties with Confucius Institutes, which have been accused of propagating Communist China’s viewpoints in U.S. classrooms.

During an interview with FOX Business in September, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested the institutes may have been used to recruit spies on college campuses.

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