Tensions between the United States and China have continued to ratchet up following the forced closure by Washington of Beijing’s consulate in Houston, amid revelations that federal prosecutors are seeking a Chinese scientist accused of visa fraud who they say is hiding out in China’s consulate in San Francisco.
Prosecutors allege Tang Juan, a researcher focusing on biology, lied about her connection to the Chinese military in order to obtain entry into the US and has since avoided arrest by taking refuge in the West Coast diplomatic mission.
According to court filings, Tang was charged on June 26 with one count of visa fraud. Prosecutors said she concealed her connection to the country’s military in her visa application, but investigators “discovered photographs of her in the uniform of the Civilian Cadre of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA)” and that she had been employed as a researcher at the Fourth Military Medical University (FMMU).
During an interview with FBI agents on June 20, “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,” attorneys wrote in a July 20 court filing.
However, during a search of her residence and electronic media, FBI agents allegedly “found further evidence of Tang’s PLA affiliation.”Following her interview with the bureau, Tang allegedly fled to the San Francisco consulate, “where the FBI assesses she has remained.”
CNN has reached out to the US State Department, the Justice Department and the FBI for further comment. Separately, CNN has also reached out to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The criminal complaint names several other Chinese scientists in the US. Prosecutors claim they are part of a “program conducted by the PLA — and specifically, FMMU or associated institutions — to send military scientists to the United States on false pretenses with false covers or false statements about their true employment.”
“There exists evidence in at least one of these cases of a military scientist copying or stealing information from American institutions at the direction of military superiors in China,” prosecutors said. “There additionally exists evidence of the PRC (People’s Republic of China) government instructing these individuals to destroy evidence and in coordinating efforts regarding the departure of these individuals from the United States, particularly following the charges filed against Xin Wang in this district on June 7, 2020.”
Last month, Wang was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport, attempting to depart the United States for Tianjin, China, and was charged with visa fraud.Commenting on Wang’s arrest, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called it “blatant political persecution.”
“As far as I know, Wang Xin does research in the field of cardiovascular diseases. I don’t see how that could ever threaten US national interest or security,” she said, adding that “recently many Chinese citizens were questioned for a long time by American law enforcement officials while leaving the US, and the digital devices they carried were also examined.”