EPA Appointee’s China Ties Draw Congressional Oversight Spotlight

Committee members join Protect the Public’s Trust in investigating senior EPA leader’s continued employment relationship with China

Today, Protect the Public’s Trust applauded members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform for demanding additional information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding a senior agency official’s relationship with an arm of the Chinese government. As FOIA documents obtained by Protect the Public’s Trust revealed recently, EPA has allowed Dr. Christopher Frey to continue an employment relationship with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) while he serves at the Agency.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits Americans holding official office from receiving gifts, payments or titles from foreign governments. The Department of Justice has determined that Americans working for public universities in foreign countries generally are considered to be working for that foreign government. Not only do HKUST statutes declare Beijing’s hand-picked Chief Executive of Hong Kong the University Chancellor, but the recent security law essentially erased any distinction between Hong Kong and mainland China.

Despite this, EPA permitted Dr. Frey to merely take a leave of absence from his position with HKUST, presumably allowing him to return as soon as his EPA service ends, rather than forcing him to resign from his adjunct professor role. Furthermore, this relationship was omitted from both his EPA biography page and from the announcement of his appointment to the Agency.

“EPA’s endorsement of Dr. Frey’s continued relationship with an entity that is essentially an arm of the Chinese government is very troubling,” declared Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “We applaud the Oversight Committee members for digging into this further. As the members mention, not only is China the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases but dissent and academic freedom are under increasing attack at the very institution with which Frey is affiliated. In the midst of questions swirling over the Biden family’s financial relationship with China, the EPA’s nonchalant defense of Frey’s ongoing relationship should raise serious red flags in the eyes of the American public.”

###