A Singaporean has pleaded guilty in the United States to working as an agent for China, the latest incident in a growing stalemate between Washington and Beijing.
Jun Wei Yeo has been accused of using his political consultancy in America to gather information for Chinese intelligence, US officials said.
Separately, the United States has said that a Chinese researcher accused of hiding her links with the Chinese military has been arrested.
China earlier ordered the closure of the US consulate in Chengdu.
The decision to close the diplomatic mission in the southwestern city was in response to the shutdown of the Chinese Consulate in Houston by the United States.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the decision was made because China was “stealing” intellectual property.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin responded by saying that the US decision was based on “a mishmash of anti-Chinese lies.”
After 72 hours for Chinese diplomats to leave the Houston consulate, expired at 4:00 p.m. (9:00 p.m. GMT) Friday. reporters saw men who appeared to be US officials force open a door to enter the premises. Uniformed personnel from the US State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security took a stand to guard the entrance.
Tensions have mounted between the two nuclear powers over several key issues.
President Donald Trump’s administration has clashed several times in Beijing over trade and the coronavirus pandemic, as well as China’s imposition of a controversial new security law in Hong Kong.
What do we know about the Singaporean national?
Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to working as an illegal Chinese government agent in 2015-19, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.
He had previously been accused of using his political advice in the country to collect valuable, non-public information for Chinese intelligence.
In his guilty plea, he admitted spotting Americans with high-level security clearance and getting them to write reports for fake clients.
Mr. Yeo was arrested on his way to the United States in 2019.
And what about the arrested Chinese researcher?
The researcher was named by American officials like Juan Tang, 37.
She was among four Chinese nationals accused earlier this week of visa fraud for allegedly lying about her service in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Juan Tang was the last of four to be detained in California, after the United States accused the Chinese consulate in San Francisco of harboring him.
It was not immediately clear how she was arrested.
FBI agents found photos of Juan Tang dressed in a military uniform and examined articles in China identifying his military affiliation, the Associated Press reports.
He quotes the University of California, Davis, saying she quit her job as a visiting researcher in the Department of Radiation Oncology in June.
Why are there tensions between China and the United States?
There are a number of factors at play. U.S. officials have blamed China for the global spread of Covid-19. Specifically, President Donald Trump has alleged, without presenting evidence, that the virus originated from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan.
And, in unsubstantiated remarks, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in March that the US military could have brought the virus to Wuhan.
The United States and China have also been locked in a tariff war since 2018.
- The US-China trade war in 300 words
Mr Trump has long accused China of unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft, but in Beijing it feels like the United States is trying to curb its rise as a global economic power.
The United States has also imposed sanctions on Chinese politicians who it claims are responsible for human rights abuses against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. China is accused of massive detentions, religious persecution, and forced sterilization of Uyghurs and others.
Beijing denies the allegations and has accused the United States of “flagrant interference” in its internal affairs.
A Hong Kong?
China’s imposition of a radical security law is also a source of tension in relations with the United States and the United Kingdom, which administered the territory until 1997.
In response, the United States last week revoked Hong Kong’s special trade status, which allowed it to avoid tariffs imposed on Chinese products by the United States.
- New Chinese Law: Why is Hong Kong Worried?
- Trump hits China with Hong Kong trade order
The United States and the United Kingdom view the Security Act as a threat to the freedoms Hong Kong enjoyed under a 1984 agreement between China and the United Kingdom – before sovereignty reverted to Beijing.
The UK has angered China by outlining a path to British citizenship for nearly three million Hong Kong residents.
China has responded by threatening to stop recognizing a type of British passport – BNO – held by large numbers of people living in Hong Kong.