The Chinese consulate in San Francisco is harboring a fugitive wanted for using visa fraud to hide her status as a member of China’s People’s Liberation Army, according to court filings from the U.S. Department of Justice dated Monday.
Juan Tang was a researcher at the University of California, who came to the U.S. from China on a J-1 visa, according to court filings. J-1 visas are used for work-and-study exchange programs. Tang’s visa application stated that she had never been in the military, which she confirmed to the FBI. But after the FBI discovered evidence that Tang was affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Justice Department believes Tang is hiding out at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.
The Justice Department reported that three other people have already been arrested by the FBI for using visa fraud to hide their membership in China’s military. The FBI believes that Chen Song, who had been conducting research at Stanford University, was associated with the PLA, as well as Xin Wang from the University of California, San Francisco, and a Chinese national at Duke University identified as L.T.
“These members of China’s People Liberation Army applied for research visas while hiding their true affiliation with the PLA,” said John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “This is another part of the Chinese Communist Party’s plan to take advantage of our open society and exploit academic institutions.”
Court filings alleged that the visa frauds appeared “to be part of a program conducted by the PLA…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. 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.”
“A PRC military official acting with the support of her government has the resources and ability to flee from the United States regardless of any restrictions this Court could impose,” the memo added, citing evidence of “a coordinated and aggressive response of the Chinese government to law enforcement activity by the United States government.”
In the same week that the U.S. ordered the abrupt closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, the San Francisco consulate’s harboring of a fugitive will likely cause further tension. A State Department official explained that the Houston consulate was shuttered due to “massive illegal spying and influence operations.” Chinese officials at the Houston consulate were given 72 hours to leave the country, or face the possibility of being arrested as spies.
Now, the consulate in San Francisco is drawing attention to itself. “It is highly unusual for a Chinese diplomatic post to associate so closely with a suspect in an intellectual property theft-related case,” lawyer Minyao Wang told Axios’ Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who originally broke the story.
Wang, who deals with cases of intellectual property theft pertaining to China, added, “Sheltering a defendant in a criminal case by using the diplomatic immunity of a consular building, if true, is really extraordinary.”