Earlier this year, multiple Chinese consulate offices in the United States were forced to close after accusations of spying. Investigators believe that there is a massive effort on the part of the Chinese government to send people who are essentially spies into the United States to get information from universities, corporations, and government agencies.
US prosecutors are said to be investigating numerous suspects for lying about Chinese government connections on their visa applications. Some of these suspects are currently detained by US authorities, and the Chinese government is threatening to start arresting Americans who are in China on business or travel if the Department of Justice doesn’t drop its charges against the alleged spies.
According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, the Chinese government has contacted US representatives with these threats through multiple channels, numerous times since the dispute began earlier this year.
A State Department spokesman warned that people conducting business in China should be extremely careful.
“We warn U.S. citizens that business disputes, court orders to pay a settlement, or government investigations into both criminal and civil issues may result in an exit ban which will prohibit your departure from China until the issue is resolved. We are aware that the Chinese government has, in other instances, detained American, Canadian and other individuals without legal basis to retaliate against lawful prosecutions and to exert pressure on their governments, with a callous disregard of the individuals involved. If China wants to be seen as one of the world’s leading nations, it should respect the rule of law and stop taking hostages,” the spokesperson said.
The spying accusations reached a boiling point this July when Juan Tang, a Chinese research scientist who worked at the University of California, was accused of lying on her Visa application and withholding her affiliation with the Chinese military.
Since Tang’s arrest, Chinese officials have been threatening the United States with retaliation if she is not released and allowed to return home, but US authorities have insisted that she remain in the US for her trial. Tang is currently out on bail, but she faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and $500,000 in fines if she is convicted on both the charges against her, which are visa fraud and making false statements to the FBI.
According to court documents, Tang allegedly made false statements about her military background in her application to obtain a non-immigrant J-1 visa. She is also accused of making false statements about her military service when she was interviewed by FBI agents.
Tang, who has a doctorate in cellular biology, entered the United States on Dec. 27, 2019, to work at UC Davis as a visiting researcher in the Department of Radiation Oncology, Alexandra Negin, an assistant federal public defender, said in the filing last week asking the court for her release on bail.
Tang is one of at least five Chinese citizens who are currently facing charges in the US because they are suspected of spying. All of them are facing similar charges of visa fraud and making false statements.
The US government has now moved to close some Chinese consulate offices throughout the country. On July 21, US officials told China that it must close its Houston consulate within 72 hours. Oddly enough, a fire was reported at the building the next day.