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Feds say Chinese researcher visiting Stanford hid her active membership in China’s military

Members of a Chinese military honor guard. (Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF/Released)

A visiting Stanford University researcher has been charged with visa fraud for allegedly concealing her job as a member of the Chinese military.

Song Chen, 38, got a J-1 visa meant for work- and study-based exchange programs, supposedly as a neurologist interested in studying brain disease. In her November 2018 application, Song said she had served in the Chinese military from 2000-2011 and that she was currently employed by Xi Diaoyutai Hospital in Beijing. She entered the U.S. two days before Christmas 2018.

But according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice on Monday, that was a lie. Instead, the agency alleges, an investigation by the FBI uncovered that Song was really an active member of the military and the hospital story was just a cover.

According to an affidavit, online research articles that listed her as a co-author suggest she is affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force. And she was named as late as July 13 as an attending physician in the neurology department at the PLA Air Force General Hospital, which shares an address with the hospital listed on her visa application.

On June 21 of this year, Song also allegedly deleted a folder on her external hard drive labeled, in Chinese, “2018 Visiting School Important Information,” which included a letter she wrote to the Chinese Consulate in New York explaining that she was planning to extend her stay in the U.S. and that because the hospital listed on her original application was a false front, she had instead gotten approval to stay from the Chinese military.

Song appeared in court Monday to face the charge and is scheduled to appear again Tuesday for proceedings connected to her detention. She faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Attempts to reach Song were not immediately successful.

Stanford declined to answer questions about when it became aware of the allegations, saying only “we have no information beyond what is in the DOJ release.”


© 2020 the San Jose Mercury News