WASHINGTON -- The FBI believes the Chinese consulate in San Francisco is harboring a Chinese researcher who is charged in federal court in California with lying about her military background.
Tang Juan lied about her military affiliation in a visa application last October to work at the University of California, Davis and again during an FBI interview last month, according to a Justice Department criminal complaint charging her with visa fraud.
Agents found photographs of Tang in a uniform of the People's Liberation Army civilian cadre and also reviewed articles from China that identified her military affiliation.
The FBI last month interviewed Tang, when she denied having served in the military or knowing the significance of the insignia on the uniform she was photographed wearing, and also found more evidence of her military affiliation when they later searched her home, the complaint says.
“The FBI assesses that, at some point following the search and interview of Tang on June 20, 2020, Tang went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, where the FBI assesses she has remained,” prosecutors wrote in a July 20 court filing that seeks the detention of another Chinese scientist who the Justice Department says lied about her military background to enter the U.S.
The document alleges efforts by multiple Chinese nationals to conceal their ties to the military or government, and says “the Chinese government has instructed PLA members in the United States to obstruct justice by deleting information from their devices."
The allegation comes amid rising tension between the U.S. and China, particularly related to theft of intellectual property — including by Chinese researchers with connections to the military and government — for Beijing's benefit. Just this week, the U.S. ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, and the Justice Department charged two Chinese hackers with targeting firms working on vaccines for the coronavirus.
In a statement, UC Davis said its medical school was providing law enforcement officials with information they had requested. The university said Tang had been a visiting researcher in the Department of Radiation Oncology whose work was funded by an exchange program affiliated with China's Ministry of Education and Xijing Hosital.
Tang left the university at the end of June, and her work was based solely in the research laboratory, the school said.
An Associated Press reporter was unable to leave a phone message with the consulate Thursday morning. No attorney for Tang was listed in court filings.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to give a speech about China on Thursday at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.
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