Prosecutors allege Tang Juan, a researcher specializing in biology, lied about her connection to the Chinese navy in an effort to acquire entry into the US and has since averted arrest by taking refuge within the West Coast diplomatic mission.

According to courtroom filings, Tang was charged on June 26 with one depend of visa fraud. Prosecutors stated she hid her connection to the nation’s navy in her visa utility, however 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 brokers 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 courtroom submitting.

However, throughout a search of her residence and digital media, FBI brokers 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 additional remark. Separately, CNN has additionally reached out to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In the felony criticism, which names a number of different Chinese scientists within the US, prosecutors declare they’re a 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 stated. “There additionally exists evidence of the PRC 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, trying 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 known as 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 stated, including 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.”

Houston closure

On Wednesday Beijing promised to retaliate to the Houston closure, with state media pointing to the potential shuttering of one of many US’ quite a few diplomatic missions inside China.

While Washington remains to be being imprecise on what prompted the Houston resolution, it seems to have some connection to espionage, coming a day after US prosecutors charged two alleged Chinese hackers over a “sweeping global computer intrusion campaign” that they are saying was supported by the nation’s authorities and aimed at coronavirus remedy and vaccine analysis.

On Twitter, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the appearing chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated the Houston consulate was a “central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies.” The US State Department earlier accused China of getting “engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations” and that these “activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years.”

A State Department spokeswoman stated the consulate was directed to shut “in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information” however didn’t instantly present further particulars of what prompted the transfer.

China’s Foreign Ministry known as the order an “unprecedented escalation” and advised it could retaliate in variety. Late Tuesday, officers in Houston could possibly be seen showing to burn paperwork in a courtyard exterior the consulate.

Speaking to CNN affiliate KTRK, China’s consul common in Houston, Cai Wei, stated he was shocked by the closure order.

“I never expected (to be) treated like this, and we are coming for friendship, and for mutual understanding between China and the United States,” he stated.

Potential retaliation

Relations between China and the United States have plummeted up to now yr, amid an ongoing commerce conflict, the coronavirus pandemic, and US criticism of China’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was simply in Europe rallying leaders to take a tougher line with Beijing and assembly with exiled Chinese dissidents, stated that the transfer was per the Trump administration’s coverage in direction of China.

“President Trump has said ‘enough’. We’re not going to allow this to continue to happen,” Pompeo stated. “We are setting out clear expectations for how the Chinese Communist party is going to behave, and when they don’t, we’re going to take actions that protect the American people, protect our security, our national security, and also protect our economy and jobs.”

Pompeo is about to ship remarks on China on Thursday at the Richard Nixon Museum and Library in California. His speech might announce one other escalation in opposition to China, notably if Beijing takes motion in opposition to a US consulate or different pursuits within the nation forward of his deal with.

Analysts count on China to focus on the US consulate in Wuhan, which has been successfully closed for months as a result of coronavirus pandemic. James Green, a senior analysis fellow at Georgetown University and former US diplomat in China, stated that “there would be some symmetry in closing the US consulate in Wuhan.”

However, Green was skeptical concerning the supposed intelligence or espionage capabilities of the Houston consulate.

“The likely real driver is (Pompeo’s) speech on Thursday at the Nixon Library on China,” he stated. “It culminates a month of China speeches by National Security Advisor O’Brien, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Attorney General Barr. Having something big to announce or explain will give the speech more ‘umph’.”

Jeff Moon, who served as a US diplomat in China in addition to assistant US commerce consultant for China affairs underneath President US President Donald Trump, agreed that the Houston consulate was an unlikely goal to crack down on IP theft, including “if that were the real reason, the US would close the San Francisco consulate, which covers Silicon Valley.”

Moon stated it could be a response to China’s refusal to permit US diplomats to return to China with out intrusive testing and quarantines that violate the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. China at the moment has strict entry necessities over the coronavirus, however the exams required might expose the DNA of diplomats.

“Chinese consulates in the US are operating without restrictions in the US, so this is a way of gaining leverage in ongoing negotiations and forcing reciprocity on China,” he added.

‘Dangerous escalation’

Observers had been involved by the continued worsening of relations between the 2 largest economies, and warned a possible diplomatic spat might shortly escalate.

Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s former ambassador to China, stated the transfer was a “dangerous escalation.”

“Now is the time to maintain official dialogues to clear misunderstandings and press them to change their ways,” he added. “The whole idea of decoupling the two economies is troublesome as it could have long-term geopolitical consequences: when you do a lot of business together, you need to work together to avoid problems/irritants from becoming major crises.”

Natasha Kassam, a analysis fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney and former Australian diplomat in China, warned that “Beijing may retaliate by reducing numbers of US diplomats overall.”

“Such a move would limit Washington’s avenues for communications with Beijing, as well as outsiders ability to monitor and report on what is happening inside China,” she added. “This decision mirrors the missteps taken by the United States over PRC journalists that ultimately cost a number of US papers some of their best journalists in China.”

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