On Monday, prosecutors began presenting their case in court, alleging that Mr. Hu hid his China collaborations from the U.S. government while also receiving National Aeronautics and Space Administration grants for his work in Tennessee.
The trial in Knoxville is the first after a slew of arrests of researchers and years of rising concerns among U.S. authorities that American taxpayers are unwittingly funding Chinese scientific development and boosting China’s drive for global pre-eminence.
Mr. Hu faces charges of wire fraud and making false statements related to his work in China.
The Justice Department has charged around a dozen academics in the past two years with concealing China work while receiving U.S. government grants.
There he supervised a lab and graduate students, worked on projects sponsored by the Chinese government, and applied for a dozen patents, according to the indictment, a review of the Beijing university’s website and the websites of other schools in China that described guest lectures by Mr. Hu, and patent applications in China.
On the University of Tennessee annual disclosure forms between 2016 to 2019, Mr. Hu answered “No” to a question of whether he was an employee of any organization other than the university, the indictment alleges, and when he applied for a tenured faculty position, he submitted a résumé that omitted his Beijing affiliation.
The lawyer said University of Tennessee regulations require professors to report only outside employment that was more than 20% of his university work, a threshold he said Mr. Hu’s work in Beijing didn’t meet.