Nearly 200 British academics at more than 12 universities in the United Kingdom (UK) are being investigated on suspicion of unwittingly helping the Chinese government build weapons of mass destruction, The Times newspaper reported on Monday.
The scholars are suspected of unknowingly breaching export laws designed to prevent intellectual property in highly sensitive subjects from being handed to hostile states, the newspaper said, citing an unnamed source.
The Times said that the government was preparing to send enforcement notices to the academics who are suspected of transferring research in advanced military technology such as aircraft, missile designs and cyberweapons to China.
The individuals could face a maximum of 10 years in prison if found in breach of the Export Control Order 2008.
Security services are concerned that the research could help Beijing develop weapons of mass destruction and be used in the repression of political dissidents and minorities including the Uighurs.
“We could be seeing dozens of academics in courts before long,” a source told The Times. “If even 10 percent lead to successful prosecutions, we’d be looking at about 20 academics going to jail for helping the Chinese build super-weapons.”
A UK government spokesman stressed to the paper: “Exporters of military goods and those engaged in the transfer of military technology specified in the Export Control Order 2008 require a licence to export or transfer from the UK.”
Research from Civitas, a civil society think-tank based in London, meanwhile, has alleged that 20 British universities had dealings with 29 Chinese universities and nine companies with military links, including with Chinese weapons conglomerates, The Times said.—Al Jazeera