A Chinese researcher named Tang Juan was charged last month with lying about her military connections when she entered the country. Tang was doing cancer research at the University of California, Davis and claimed on her visa application that she had no connections to the Chinese military. But a simple search turned up a photo of her in uniform. Tang has now fled to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco:
Prosecutors allege that Tang — who was issued a visa in November and arrived at San Francisco’s international airport on Dec. 27 — answered “no” when asked if she had ever served in the military or been a member of the Communist Party. The affidavit presents evidence that Tang is in fact a member of China’s ruling Communist Party and a member of the military…
Upon questioning by federal agents on June 20, the affidavit alleges that Tang denied having ever served in the military, but agents later found further photos resembling her in military uniform, as well as an application for state benefits where Tang listed her status as a Communist Party member. Following that questioning, the FBI believes Tang went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, where it says she remains.
Similar charges were filed Monday against another Chinese researcher named Song Chen who has been working at Stanford. Song entered the country in 2018 by claiming on her visa that her service in the Chinese military had ended in 2011. In fact, it had not ended and investigators even found deleted documents on a hard drive admitting this was part of a cover story:
The affidavit alleges that these were lies, and that Song was a member of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese military, 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…In addition, as of July 13, 2020, a Chinese health care website listed Song as an attending physician of the Department of Neurology of the PLA Air Force General Hospital, a hospital that shared an address with the “Xi Diaoyutai Hospital” listed on her visa application. The listing allegedly included a photograph of Song wearing what appears to be a military uniform…
Finally, according to the affidavit, a search of Song’s external hard drive, recovered pursuant to a court-authorized search warrant, found that, on June 21, 2020, Song had deleted a folder titled, in Chinese, “2018 Visiting School Important Information.” The search recovered deleted documents from this folder. The affidavit alleges that one of the recovered documents was a letter from Song to the Chinese Consulate in New York, which explained that she was extending her time in the United States for another year, and wrote that her stated employer, Beijing Xi Diaoyutai Hospital, is a false front, and that, as a result, she had obtained approval for her extension from the PLA Air Force and FMMU.
Earlier this week the Trump administration gave the Chinese consulate in Houston 72 hours to clear out. Tuesday night the fire department had to be called to the building after the, ahem, diplomats in the building got carried away burning all of the sensitive documents inside. That came after the FBI announced charges against two Chinese hackers accused of stealing intellectual property from a number of U.S. companies. China threatened to retaliate for the closure of the consulate:
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson warned it would retaliate if the U.S. did not reverse the decision.
“The U.S. abruptly demanded that China’s Consulate General in Houston cease all operations and events,” the spokesperson said. “China strongly condemns such an outrageous and unjustified move which will sabotage China-U.S. relations.”
So the question now is will the Chinese respond and also what happens to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco where Tang Juan has apparently been hiding out for several weeks. Ultimately, Tang and Song are just the tip of the iceberg. The AP reports that the FBI has recently interviewed 25 Chinese nationals believed to have concealed their connections to the Chinese military.