The Chinese consulate in San Francisco is home to a Chinese researcher who lied about her military background, the Justice Department said Thursday when it announced charges against this scientist and three others accused of hiding their government relationships.
The four researchers are accused of lying about applications for work in the United States regarding their status as members of the People's Liberation Army, which is part of the Chinese military. Everyone is charged with visa fraud.
The FBI has now interviewed visa holders in more than 25 American cities suspected of hiding their ties to the Chinese military. The Department of Justice believes the deception is part of an ongoing government-sponsored effort to steal research and innovation from American universities in order to generate Beijing's economic gain.
"This is another part of the Chinese Communist Party's plan to take advantage of our open society and exploit academic institutions," said John Demers, the senior Justice Department national security officer, in a statement.
The allegation stems from increasing tensions between the United States and China, particularly in connection with the theft of intellectual property – including by Chinese researchers with military and government connections – for the benefit of Beijing. Just this week, the United States ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston to be closed, and the Department of Justice has accused two Chinese hackers of having acted against companies working on coronavirus vaccines.
Trump administration officials have escalated China's public convictions in recent weeks with speeches from FBI director Chris Wray, Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The FBI believes that one of the four accused, Tang Juan, has been at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco for weeks, but this could not be confirmed immediately. The Justice Department says the scientist, who is listed in some court files as Juan Tang, lied about her military affiliation in a visa application for her work at the University of California at Davis and again during an FBI interview.
Agents found photos of Tang in a uniform of the PLA's civilian squad and also checked articles from China that identified her military affiliation.
The FBI interviewed Tang last month when she denied serving in the military or knowing the meaning of the insignia on the uniform she had photographed, and according to court records, found further evidence of her military affiliation when they later ransacked her home.
"The FBI estimates that after searching and interviewing Tang, Tang went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco on June 20, 2020, where the FBI found that she had stayed," the prosecutor wrote in a lawsuit on June 20. July sought the detention of another Chinese scientist who, according to the Department of Justice, lied about her military background to enter the United States
The document claims the efforts of several Chinese citizens to hide their military or government ties, saying, "The Chinese government has instructed PLA members in the United States to hinder the judiciary by deleting information from their devices."
In a statement, UC Davis said that his medical school provided law enforcement officers with information that they requested. The university said Tang was a visiting researcher in the Department of Radiation Oncology, whose work was funded by an exchange program affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education and Xijing Hosital.
Tang left the university in late June and her work was exclusively in the research laboratory, the school said.
An Associated Press reporter was unable to leave a phone message to the consulate on Thursday morning. No lawyer for Tang was listed in the court records.
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