The FBI is accusing the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, California, of harboring a fugitive University of California, Davis, researcher charged with visa fraud for lying about her connections to the Chinese military.
Prosecutors said in a U.S. District Court filing in San Francisco that biology researcher Tang Juan fled to the Chinese consulate after the FBI questioned her about her visa application on June 20.
Tang stated on her application that she is not a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and has never served in the Chinese military, but investigators discovered a photo of her wearing the uniform of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Civilian Cadre which, contrary to the name, is very much a part of the Chinese military apparatus. The FBI even learned Tang’s exact rank in the Civilian Cadre — Rank 5, which is about a third of the way up the scale.
The FBI also uncovered documents that showed Tang requested authorization from the PLA for her move to the United States, graduated from the Fourth Military Medical University (FMMU), and was employed in the neurology department at a Chinese military hospital. Her visa application stated that she worked for a civilian hospital in China.
When FBI agents showed Tang a photo of herself wearing her Civilian Cadre uniform during the June 20 interview, she claimed not to recognize the rank insignia she was wearing. The FBI then executed a search warrant on her residence and found more electronic documents establishing her affiliation with the Chinese military.
Forensic technicians recovered some of those documents despite Tang’s attempt to delete them, which demonstrated her “operational sophistication” in the judgment of the FBI.
The FBI further noted “the Chinese government has instructed PLA members in the United States to obstruct justice by deleting information from their devices.”
At some point after her awkward interview with the FBI, Tang allegedly fled to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco and has remained there ever since. U.S. law enforcement agents cannot enter the consulate to search for her without an invitation. Tang was formally charged with visa fraud on June 26.
According to Bloomberg News, prosecutors said the criminal complaint against Tang was unsealed because representatives of the Chinese government have inquired about “law enforcement activity surrounding” her. Unsealing the complaint should allow the U.S. State Department to coordinate “federal law enforcement and national security activity” around her case.
The unsealed criminal complaint does not specify what the FBI thought Tang might have been trying to accomplish at UC Davis as an agent of the People’s Liberation Army, but it said her case “appears to be part of a program conducted by the PLA — and specifically, FMMU or associated institutions — to send military scientists to the United States on false pretenses with false covers or false statements about their true employment.”
“There additionally exists evidence of the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government instructing these individuals to destroy evidence and is coordinating efforts regarding the departure of these individuals from the United States,” the complaint continued, citing two other similar cases.
One of those individuals, Xin Wang, was arrested on June 7 at the L.A. International Airport while attempting to return to China and was charged with offenses similar to Tang’s.