SYDNEY/ COPENHAGEN: A Chinese professor at the University of Copenhagen conducted genetic research with the Chinese military without disclosing the connection, the university told Reuters, in the latest example of how China’s alleged pursuit of military-civilian technology is tapping into Western academia in the strategically sensitive area of biotechnology.
The professor, Guojie Zhang, is also employed by Shenzhen-based genomics giant BGI Group, which funds dozens of researchers at the university and has its European headquarters on the university’s campus.
Zhang and a student he was supervising worked with a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) laboratory on research exposing monkeys to extreme altitude to study their brains and develop new drugs to prevent brain damage - a priority the PLA has identified for Chinese troops operating on high plateau borders.
Zhang co-published that paper with a PLA major general in January 2020. At the time the study was published, the university was “not familiar with the fact that the paper also included authors from Chinese military research institutions,” Niels Kroer, head of its biology department, told Reuters in an email.
Zhang confirmed that he did not inform the university of the link because the university didn’t require researchers to report co-authors on scientific papers to it, which the university confirmed. BGI said the study with the PLA lab “was not carried out for military purposes” and brain research is a critical area for understanding human diseases. China’s government science academy said the study had national defence and civilian benefits on the Tibetan plateau.