A member of the Chinese military who was posing as a researcher at the University of California – Davis has been taken into U.S. custody over visa fraud on Friday after hiding in a Chinese consulate, Bloomberg reported.
CNN’s Josh Rogin also said the Chinese researcher had left the San Francisco consulate and was arrested by law enforcement, according to a senior Justice Department official.
Breaking: Chinese researcher fugitive has left the San Francisco consulate and been arrested, will appear likely today in CA Eastern District Court. – Senior Justice Department Official
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) July 24, 2020
Axios first reported the Chinese military researcher Tang Juan, a researcher with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), had been interviewed by the FBI on June 20. Court documents indicated that Tang fled to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco after the FBI interview and remained there, according to the FBI.
Tang was charged with visa fraud on June 26 but fled before she could be detained.
Tang had told investigators she was not affiliated with the PLA, however, they determined she was active in the Chinese military and working at the PLA’s Air Force Military Medical University (FMMU) in China.
Investigators had 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.
“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.”
The arrest comes after the U.S. ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Marco Rubio both described as a Chinese “spy hub.”