Following the State Department’s closing of China’s “spy center” consulate in Houston, a Chinese spy is reportedly now hiding in the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco. She is part of a much bigger Chinese spying effort.
As part of the FBI’s ongoing crackdown on the overwhelming number of Chinese spies in the U.S., Tang Juan, a Chinese scientist at UC-Davis was identified as tied to Chinese military intelligence.
She is accused of lying on her research visa by concealing her ties to the Chinese military, according to court filings reported by Time. After she was interviewed by the FBI she fled to the consulate where she is now hiding.
Axios earlier reported that “Tang Juan came to the U.S. on a J-1 visa and was a researcher at the University of California, Davis.” It further explained that on her visa application as part of her academic exchange program, Tang stated that she did not have any affiliation with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
However, an FBI investigation and search of her home revealed that she worked at the Air Force Military Medical University (FMMU), a PLA-affiliated university in China, and is considered active Chinese military.
“We made the Chinese government aware that she is a charged individual, so it is unquestionable that they know the defendant is a fugitive from Justice,” a Department of Justice official told Axios. Because of this, Time reported, prosecutors say this case demonstrates that the Chinese consulate in San Francisco now “provides a potential safe harbor for a PLA official intent on avoiding prosecution in the United States.”
Accused Chinese academic spies in the U.S. face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, according to the Justice Department (DOJ), reported the Sacramento Bee, adding that DOJ has investigated Chinese citizens suspected of undeclared ties to the Chinese military in more than 25 cities nationwide.
Time added that prosecutors said this spying case “appears to be part of a program conducted by the [Chinese army] … to send military scientists to the United States on false pretenses.”
Court filings show a much wider Chinese espionage effort, noting cases of three other Chinese operatives hiding their ties with the Chinese military to enter the U.S., with Time noting at least one “military scientist copying or stealing information from American institutions at the direction of military superiors in China.”
These cases are only the tip of the massive iceberg of Chinese espionage in the U.S. – senior counterintelligence officials have been highlighting the threat for years. Finally, the U.S. government is taking a decisive and forceful approach to rooting out clandestine Chinese operatives nationwide.
The question remains though, how U.S. officials will handle Chinese diplomatic posts in American cities hiding Chinese spies not under diplomatic cover and criminal fugitives fleeing from U.S. justice.