U.S. prosecutors say the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco is harboring a scientist who hid her affiliation with the Chinese military.
Prosecutors charged Tang Juan, a researcher with the University of California in Davis, with one count of visa fraud on June 26. According to court papers, Tang claimed on her visa application that she had no ties with the People’s Liberation Army. However, FBI agents later found photos of Tang in a Chinese military uniform in a search of her home, as well as information that she had worked as a researcher at China’s Air Force Military Medical University.
The court filing says Tang denied the allegations when she was interviewed by FBI agents June 20, after which she sought refuge in the San Francisco consulate.
Prosecutors’ claim about Tang Juan was first reported by the news website Axios Wednesday, hours after the U.S. State Department ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, to shut down because of what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said was the persistent problem of Beijing’s theft of U.S. intellectual property.
Prosecutors say Tang is part of a program conducted by the PLA to send scientists to the United States on “false pretenses with false covers or false statements about their true employment” with the intention to steal intellectual property from U.S. colleges and research institutes.
Chinese researcher Chen Song, who worked at Stanford University, was arrested last month on a similar charge of visa fraud.
China was given until Friday afternoon to close the Houston facility, which has about 60 employees, and President Donald Trump said more consulate closures are “always possible.”
Relations between the world’s two largest economies have steadily worsened in recent months over issues including trade, technology and the new national security law imposed on Hong Kong aimed at squelching pro-democracy activists.
Two Chinese nationals were charged Tuesday with hacking hundreds of entities around the world, including U.S. biotech companies developing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, while working with China’s security services.