A Chinese researcher hiding out in her country’s consulate in San Francisco has been taken into U.S. custody according to a senior Justice Department official.
The Chinese national and cancer researcher at University of California “was a fugitive from justice until last night,” the official said of Juan Tang, who sought refuge in the consulate after accusations of visa fraud, CNN reported. Three other Chinese citizens were also taken into custody following the U.S. order to close the consulate in Houston for alleged spying and intellectual property theft.
Tang and the others were charged with “visa fraud in connection with a scheme to lie about their status as members of the People’s Republic of China’s military forces, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), while in the United States conducting research,” the Department of Justice announced in a news release on Thursday.
“These members of China’s People Liberation Army applied for research visas while hiding their true affiliation with the PLA,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said. “This is another part of the Chinese Communist Party’s plan to take advantage of our open society and exploit academic institutions. We will continue to conduct this investigation together with the FBI.”
Tang, who had sheltered in the consulate in San Francisco, had “made fraudulent statements” on her October 2019 visa application, according to the DOJ. Asked “Have you ever served in the military,” Tang had responded “No.” She was issued a visa in November of 2019 and entered the United States in the next month.
“As set forth in the Complaint, the FBI found a photograph of Tang in a military uniform and references to Tang’s employment at the Air Force Military Medical University, which has also been known as the Fourth Military Medical University,” the Justice Department release said.
“The FBI interviewed Tang on June 20. Although Tang denied having been a member of the military, an additional photograph of Tang in a different PLA military uniform was found on electronic media seized pursuant to a search warrant,” the statement continued.
“Tang denied serving in the Chinese military, claimed she did not know the meaning of the insignia on her uniform, and that wearing a military uniform was required for attendance at FMMU because it was a military school,” according to an interview with FBI agents on June 20 cited by attorneys in the July 20 court filing.
A similar denial was noted by the DOJ for Kaikai Zhao, a graduate student studying machine learning and artificial intelligence at Indiana University, who was arrested on July 18.
While Chen Song, who was also arrested on July 18, claimed that she had only served in the Chinese military for a few months in 2011, she reportedly lied in her application in which she said she was a neurologist who was coming to the U.S. to conduct research at Stanford University.
“The affidavit alleges that these were lies, that Song was a member of the PLA when she entered and while she was in the United States, and that the hospital she listed on her visa as her employer was a cover for her true employer, the PLA,” the DOJ release stated.
Another person charged with visa fraud who was arrested last month claimed he had previously served as an Associate Professor in Medicine in the People’s Liberation Army but, according to the Justice Department, Xin Wang was still employed by the PLA.
Washington’s call for the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston triggered the Chinese government which saw the move as a provocation and retaliated by ordering the US close its consulate in Chengdu. Consulate officials “were directly involved in communications with researchers and guided them on what information to collect,” US officials said Friday, CNN reported.
Not surprisingly, Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff accused the Trump administration of escalating the tensions with China through the latest moves.
Adam Schiff runs interference for the Chinese Communist Party, says that US efforts to stop Chinese spying is an “escalation.” pic.twitter.com/W6z4Wo4Vju
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) July 24, 2020
A Justice Department official noted that activities in Houston “are a microcosm, we believe, of a broader network of individuals in more than 25 cities that network is supported through the consulates here.”
“Consulates have been giving individuals in that network guidance on how to evade [and] obstruct our investigation. And you can infer from that the ability to task that [a] network of associates nationwide,” the official added.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a new U.S. approach toward the Chinese Communist Party during a speech on Thursday in which he was sure to praise the Chinese people themselves.
.@SecPompeo: Perhaps we were naïve about China’s virulent strain of Communism, or hoodwinked by Beijing’s talk of a “peaceful rise.” Whatever the reason, China is increasingly authoritarian at home, aggressive in its hostility to freedom abroad. President Trump has said: enough. pic.twitter.com/qmzJOcsWvv
— Department of State (@StateDept) July 24, 2020
“We must admit our truth that should guide us in the years and decades to come, that if we want to have a free 21st century, and not the Chinese century of which Xi Jinping dreams, the old paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won’t get it done,” he said, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“We opened our arms to Chinese citizens, only to see the CCP exploit our free and open society,” he added. “General Secretary Xi Jinping is a true believer in a bankrupt totalitarian ideology.”
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