Chinese professor, despite no remorse, to return home after guilty plea in Huawei theft case

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Chinese professor accused of stealing American technology to benefit China’s Huawei Technologies Co plans to return to his home country after being sentenced on Monday for lying to the FBI.

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Despite expressing no remorse, Bo Mao was sentenced to time served by U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn, following his Dec. 4 guilty plea. Prosecutors, who supported the sentence, dropped a more serious wire fraud conspiracy charge.

Mao had been a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Arlington when he was arrested in August 2019. He is scheduled to return to China on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Mao agreed with a California technology company, later shown to be Silicon Valley’s CNEX Labs, to obtain its circuit board ostensibly for academic research, but ultimately shared proprietary information with Huawei.

Chen said that while Mao pleaded guilty only to lying, his criminal conduct was “much broader and far worse,” and that “he might even be considered a patriot” at home.

The judge also noted Mao’s lack of expressed remorse. “I am disappointed by that, quite frankly,” she said.

Chen nonetheless said Mao’s role was minor and he appeared to benefit only indirectly, including through possible career advancement.

Mao, a married father of two who teaches at Xiamen University, said through an interpreter that his family had undergone “a lot of stress” and looked forward to returning home quickly.

His arrest came amid a Department of Justice crackdown on suspected Chinese influence at American universities, including through spying and intellectual property theft.

The U.S. government in 2018 charged Huawei and its finance chief, Meng Wanzhou, with misleading banks about the company’s ties to Iran. In February it charged Huawei with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets.

Huawei pleaded not guilty. Meng has been fighting extradition from Vancouver to face wire and bank fraud charges, which she denies. Her case has strained ties between the United States, China and Canada.

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