Department of Education Investigating University of Texas over Links to Wuhan Lab, Zoom

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The United States Department of Education is investigating the University of Texas over links to the Chinese lab in Wuhan potentially involved in the origin of the Chinese virus, along with the university’s ties to companies including Huawei and Zoom, the popular video conferencing app criticized for its poor security.

The U.S. Department of Education has requested for the University of Texas System to provide documents involving records or gifts from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and its researcher Shi Zhengli, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

The report added that the Education Department’s probe into the university is part of a broader investigation into potential improper financial disclosures of foreign money by the University of Texas System.

The Education Department is also asking the university system to provide documents regarding possible ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as well as about two dozen Chinese universities and businesses — including Huawei Technologies Co. — according to a letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

The government is also asking for documents involving the university system’s alleged contracts or gifts from Eric Yuan, the chief executive officer of Zoom Video Communications.

Zoom has already fallen under scrutiny by U.S. national security officials over the company’s reliance on China-based engineering, especially given that more people are using Zoom for its video communications services due to quarantine and social distancing measures put in place over the Chinese coronavirus.

“Zoom is no different than any other U.S. technology company with operations in China, including many of our videoconferencing peers,” insisted the company in a statement. “Zoom is an American company, publicly traded on the Nasdaq, with headquarters in California and a founder and CEO who is an American citizen.”

The company went on to state that CEO Yuan being included in the letter involving the University of Texas System suggests that somebody “did not do their homework” on the matter.

The Department of Education’s investigation into the university system is part of an ongoing national review that started in 2019, reports the Wall Street Journal, adding that the department says it has asked universities to report more than $6.5 billion in previously undisclosed foreign funding.

The report added that U.S. officials have already sent similar letters to at least eight other schools, which include Harvard and Yale University.

Moreover, universities are mandated to disclose all contracts and gifts from a foreign source worth $250,000 or more in one calendar year, and while the statute is decades old, it has only recently been strictly enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, which has recently accused schools of soliciting money from foreign governments, companies, and nationals hostile to the United States.

“We’re sure you agree that taxpayers’ money should not be sent to a dangerous Chinese state-run bio-agent laboratory that lacks any meaningful oversight from U.S. authorities,” wrote members of Congress — led by Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) — in an April 21 letter.

“We hope to ensure that [Wuhan Institute of Virology] will not receive federal funds in any future spending packages,” they added.

More than 64,200 people have died in the United States from the Chinese coronavirus as of Friday, according to the latest data provided by Johns Hopkins University at the time of publishing.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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