Chinese consulate in San Francisco shelters fugitive, FBI says


The FBI alleges that a biology researcher who lied about her ties to the Chinese military in order to receive a US visa avoided arrest by taking refuge at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.According to court documents, Tang Juan was given a nonimmigrant visa last fall to conduct research at the University of California, Davis. But after FBI agents found pictures of her in military uniform on the internet, they questioned her on June 20 about her visa application. She said she had never served in the military and was not a member of the Communist Party, according to the documents.

After this meeting with the FBI, she went to the Consulate in San Francisco, where she still resides, according to the FBI. The government brought federal charges against Tang for visa fraud on June 26.

“The FBI assesses that at some point after the search and interview with Tang on June 20, 2020, Tang went to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, where the FBI believes she remained,” wrote US lawyers in a July 20 court case. .

The filings come at a time of heightened tension between the United States and China and heightened surveillance over possible economic espionage by Chinese citizens working in the United States.

On Wednesday, the US State Department ordered China to close a consulate in Houston, Texas. Officials said the move was made to protect US intellectual property and “private information.” On Tuesday, the Justice Department said two Chinese citizens attempted to steal trade secrets by hacking companies working on a Covid-19 vaccine.

Trump administration officials, including FBI Director Christopher Wray, have strongly criticized China’s use of cyber attacks to steal intellectual property from U.S. institutions. The United States has also attempted to obstruct Huawei Technologies over fears that wireless networks using its technology could be used to spy on Americans.

Details of Tang’s current refuge at the consulate have come to light in a separate case involving another Chinese citizen wanted for visa fraud. In the case, US lawyers try to link Tang’s case to other researchers with Chinese military ties, focusing on a university in China called FMMU, which is affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). .

“The defendant’s case is not isolated, but rather appears to be part of a program led by
the PLA – and more specifically the FMMU or associated institutions – to send military scientists to the United States under false pretenses with false covers or false statements about their real employment, ”the lawyers wrote. There is evidence in at least one of these cases of a military scientist copying or stealing information from US institutions under the direction of military superiors in China. ”

Axios, who previously reported on the Tang case, suggested that resorting to diplomatic immunity, as consulates enjoy, to shelter someone accused of crimes is an unusual move for Chinese diplomats. The Vienna Convention, which is the agreement that describes how diplomats should behave when in a foreign country, states that employees of embassies or consulates enjoying criminal immunity always have a duty to “To respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State”.

The US government said in the July 20 filing: “As the Tang case demonstrates, the Chinese consulate in San Francisco offers a potential safe haven for an PLA official who wishes to avoid prosecution in the United States. ”

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC did not immediately return a request for comment.


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