This week, the Trump administration ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, a severe diplomatic step that is a response to a surge in Chinese espionage in this country.

It appears there is a robust effort to target Chinese spies in this country. A University of California-Davis researcher who fled to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco after allegedly lying to investigators about her Chinese military service was arrested and will appear in court on Monday.

According to court documents unsealed earlier this week in the Eastern District of California, Juan Tang, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, applied for a nonimmigrant J1 visa in October 2019. The visa was issued in November 2019 and Tang entered the United States a month later.

Tang allegedly made fraudulent statements on her visa application by concealing that she served in the Chinese military. The FBI concluded that Tang was a uniformed officer of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force after photographs of her were uncovered on electronic media seized in accordance with a search warrant.

“I won’t discuss the circumstances of the arrest,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, adding that the individual did not have diplomatic immunity. The person said that the details of the arrest could be released when the defendant appears before the Eastern District of California court on Monday.

“The issue here is that their true status wasn’t disclosed by visa application,” the official said, adding that the arrest was not a tit-for-tat move as tensions between Washington and Beijing simmer.

The FBI had arrested three other Chinese nationals for allegedly concealing their affiliations to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) when applying for visas to conduct research in the U.S.

According to BBC, the four individuals charged with alleged visa fraud are Wang Xin (王興), Song Chen (宋晨), Zhao Kaikai (趙凱凱), and Tang Juan (唐娟). All four have either insisted they had no ties to the PLA or retired from the army, but the U.S. authorities allege they were all active military personnel when they entered the U.S.

Prosecutors believe that sending Chinese military scientists to the U.S. is part of Beijing’s plan to exploit American academic institutions.

John Brown, executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, said in a statement the arrests were proof of Chinese intent to infiltrate American society. He said the FBI has interviewed PLA members in over 25 cities across the U.S. and discovered many of them have attempted to hide their affiliations with the Chinese military, reported Yahoo News.

Meanwhile, former U.S. National Intelligence Acting Director Richard Grenell suggested the U.S. should close China’s San Francisco consulate as well.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is not indicating that it will comply with an order to close an American Consulate in China.

On Friday morning, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs directed the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to cease operations at its consulate in Chengdu, a city in southwest China’s Sichuan province.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, said some U.S. Chengdu consulate personnel were “conducting activities not in line with their identities” and had harmed China’s security interests, but would not elaborate.

…A senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the U.S. decision to close the Chinese consulate in Houston as “serious” and reflective of “long-standing concerns.” The person also said that the Trump administration would be prepared to deal with second- and third-order effects in the wake of this decision, but would not elaborate.

“On their decision to close Chengdu, you’re going to have to ask them, the MFA, about how they picked that,” the official said. The same official said the Department of State would continue to send U.S. diplomats to China saying, “We still have a job to do out there.”

Meanwhile, Beijing has not publicly agreed to evacuate from its consulate in Houston. When asked how the U.S. may respond, the State Department official said, “I’m not going to speculate about how this rolls out in Houston.”

 

 
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