Chinese consulate in San Francisco harbouring PLA military researcher wanted by the FBI, US says
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI believes the Chinese consulate in San Francisco is harbouring a Chinese researcher who is charged in a California federal court with lying about her military background.
- The FBI interviewed Ms Tang in June and she denied having served in the military
- The US ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston this week
- A Chinese Foreign Ministry official said the move had “severely harmed” relations
According to US Justice Department criminal charges Tang Juan lied about her military affiliation in a visa application to work at the University of California and again during an FBI interview last month.
Agents found photographs of Ms Tang in a uniform of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA civilian cadre and news articles from China that identified her military affiliation.
Ms Tang denied having served in the military to the FBI or knowing the significance of the insignia of the uniform she was pictured wearing.
The FBI also found more evidence of her military affiliation when they later searched her home, according to a criminal complaint filed last month that charges her with visa fraud.
“The FBI assesses that, at some point following the search and interview of [Ms] Tang on June 20 2020, [Ms] Tang went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, where the FBI assesses she has remained,” prosecutors wrote in a July 20 court filing.
The court filing also seeks the detention of another Chinese scientist who the Justice Department said lied about his military background to get into the US.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, speaking at a daily media briefing, said China would safeguard its citizens.
“For some time, the US has held ideological bias to continuously surveil, harass and even arbitrarily detain Chinese students and scholars in the US,” he said.
Rising tensions between global powers
On Wednesday Washington gave China 72 hours to close the consulate “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”, in a move the Chinese Foreign Ministry said “severely harmed” relations.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, described the Houston consulate on Twitter as the “central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States”.
Mr Wang described the US allegations as “malicious slander”.
“In response to the US’s unreasonable actions, China must make a necessary response and safeguard its legitimate rights,” he said, declining to specify any measures.
The Justice Department has also charged two Chinese hackers with targeting firms working on COVID-19 vaccines.
The South China Morning Post on Thursday reported that China may close the US consulate in the south-western city of Chengdu, while a source told Reuters that China was considering shutting the US consulate in Wuhan.
Hu Xijin, editor of the ruling Chinese Communist Party tabloid publication Global Times, wrote that shutting the Wuhan consulate would be insufficiently disruptive.
Mr Hu said the US had a large consulate in Hong Kong and it was “too obvious that the consulate is an intelligence centre”.
“Even if China doesn’t close it, it could instead cut its staff to one or two hundred. This will make Washington suffer much pain,” he wrote.
The other US consulates in China are in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang.