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FBI: Fugitive Chinese military researcher hiding in San Francisco consulate

Chinese Consulate-General, San Francisco, California. (Ken Lund, Flickr/Released)
July 23, 2020

The Chinese consulate in San Francisco, Calif. is harboring a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) military researcher wanted by the FBI after she was charged with filing a fraudulent visa to enter the U.S.

Axios first reported the Chinese military researcher Tang Juan had been interviewed by the FBI on June 20. Court documents indicated at some point after the FBI interview, Tang fled to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco and remains there, according to the FBI.

Tang was charged with visa fraud on June 26 but she is believed to have fled to the consulate before she could be detained.

Investigators said Tang stated she did not have any affiliation with the PLA, but they determined she worked at the PLA’s Air Force Military Medical University (FMMU) in China and was considered to be active military. The court documents specifically stated Tang said she had never served in the PLA but that investigators uncovered multiple photographs of her in a uniform affiliated with the PLA’s civilian cadre.

During her July 20 FBI interview, Tang said she did not understand the significance of the military insignia on her uniform and that she only wore the uniform because it was required for students attending FMMU. The court documents indicated that an FBI search of Tang’s residence and her electronic devices showed further indications she was affiliated with the PLA.

The FBI’s assessment that Tang is being harbored in the San Francisco consulate could cause further diplomatic tension between the U.S. and China. The U.S. ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas hours before Axios reported the FBI assessment that the San Francisco consulate was harboring Tang.

“We made the Chinese government aware that she is a charged individual, so it unquestionable that they know the defendant is a fugitive from Justice,” a DOJ official told Axios.

Tang’s decision to flee to the San Francisco embassy prompted prosecutors to request another defendant, Song Chen, be detained pending their trial. Song, who also attended FMMU, was accused of lying on her visa in order to gain entry into the U.S.

“There is a high likelihood that defendant will successfully flee the United States if released on bond and there are no conditions of release that could ensure her appearance in the Northern District of California,” charging documents against Song state. “For the foregoing reasons, the government requests that this Court order defendant detained.”