July 23 (UPI) — A Chinese researcher wanted for a visa violation has taken refuge in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, U.S. officials said, adding tension to the deteriorating relationship between the world’s two largest economies.
The Justice Department said in a release Thursday it has charged four Chinese researchers with fraud for lying about their status as members of China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army.
Authorities have arrested three of them but Juan Tang, a biology researcher who was working at the University of California, Davis, is believed to have sought refuge at the Chinese consulate in San Fransico, prosecutors said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations interviewed Tang on June 20 and raided her residence.
In a court filing this week, the FBI said it believes Tang went to the San Francisco consulate shortly afterward and remains there to evade arrest.
Prosecutors say Tang was working in the United States on a J-1 visa but was charged for a violation.
“Her J-1 visa application stated she had never served in the military, but [an] open source investigation revealed photographs of her in the uniform of the Civilian Cadre of the [People’s Liberation Army], and that she had been employed as a researcher at the Air Force Military Medical University, which is another name for [Fourth Military Medical University],” prosecutors said in the court documents.
“During an interview with FBI agents on June 20, Tang denied serving in the Chinese military, claimed she did not know the meaning of the insignia on her uniform, and that wearing a military uniform was required for attendance at FMMU because it was a military school.”
Authorities said their raid of Tang’s home turned up evidence of her connection with the Chinese military, and prosecutors said in the complaint the San Francisco consulate was used to shield Chinese nationals from U.S. prosecution.
News of Tang’s evasion of the FBI comes one day after the Trump administration said it closed the Chinese consulate in Houston “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information” — and a top diplomat testifying in Congress on the state of U.S.-China relations, which have deteriorated over the last four years under President Donald Trump.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the consulate on Thursday during a speech at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum as “a hub of spying and intellectual property theft.”