A government ethics watchdog group, Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT), announced they are investigating Christopher Frey, the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science Policy at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), claiming he still has a working relationship with the Chinese government.
According to PPT, Frey, who’s now a high-level political appointee, while working at the EPA, has “insisted on maintaining his adjunct faculty position with an instrument of the Chinese government.” The watchdog unearthed the information from heavily redacted documents that were requested and obtained by PPT from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
PPT claims that the documents the group obtained show that the EPA leadership authorized Frey to continue his association in an unpaid status with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). But, the Department of Justice in the past has determined that these types of relationships are the same as working with the foreign government:
The documents reveal EPA leadership authorized Dr. Frey, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science Policy, to continue his affiliation with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) in an unpaid status, despite the Department of Justice’s determination that such relationships are akin to working for a foreign government. Furthermore, the national security law passed last year in Hong Kong erased any meaningful distinction between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese authority. HKUST’s Ordinance and Statutes designate Beijing’s anointed Chief Executive of Hong Kong, a post currently held by Carrie Lam, as Chancellor of the University. It is difficult to argue that Dr. Frey’s employer is anything short of an arm of the Chinese government.
The Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, Michael Chamberlain, said in a statement that “The American public needs answers to a number of legal, Constitutional and national security questions regarding the decision of EPA to allow Dr. Frey to continue a relationship with an arm of the Chinese government.” He added:
“It’s generally expected that political appointees completely break ties with private entities and foreign governments in order to serve the American public. The documents provided shed little light on who, how and why Dr. Frey was allowed to continue this foreign association. The lack of transparency is flabbergasting, especially in light of the Biden Administration’s claims to be the most ethical administration in history. PPT will continue to investigate until we get some answers.”
The press release from the PPT stated that “Rather than forcing Dr. Frey to sever ties with HKUST, EPA leadership permitted him to merely take a leave of absence and recuse himself from particular matters having a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of the University.”
The group added that Frey could continue his work with the Chinese government after he is done with his tenure at the EPA, which is an American agency. The release noted that PPT could only find this information out by the documents obtained from FOIA since nothing is mentioned in his official biography on the agency’s website or the announcement of his political appointment.
Since the Biden presidency, PPT has flagged multiple employees from the EPA. PPT has noted that the agency has raised transparency and security concerns.
Follow Jacob Bliss on Twitter @jacobmbliss.