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FBI arrests 2 more Chinese nationals for theft of US research and trying to flee country

China and US flags (Sgt. Mikki Sprenkle/WikiCommons)
September 09, 2020

Late last month, the FBI agents arrested two more Chinese nationals involved in research at U.S. universities in separate incidents. The two arrests come after federal agents caught several other Chinese researchers allegedly stealing information for China.

In an Aug. 28 press release, the Department of Justice described the arrest of Hu Haizhou, a Chinese national and researcher at the University of Virginia (UVA) charged with stealing trade secrets and computer intrusion. According to the press release, Hu attempted to board a flight to China from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Aug. 25 when he was arrested. He was found in possession of a “bio-inspired research simulation software code” that is the result of years of research by UVA, and which he was not authorized to possess.

The Wall Street Journal also reported the arrest of Yang Zhihui, another Chinese researcher who was arrested running through the Los Angeles airport to board a flight to China on Aug. 31, despite an agreement communicated by her lawyer that she would serve as a witness against another Chinese researcher arrested earlier in the summer, her fiancée Guan Lei.

Guan, who was a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), arrested after he was observed throwing a damaged hard drive into a dumpster on July 25. The information on the damaged hard drive appeared to have been removed. For his actions, Guan was charged with destroying evidence. He was previously stopped from boarding a flight to China and refused FBI request to examine his computer. Guan is also under investigation on suspicions he

Tang Juan, another Chinese researcher, with ties to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), was arrested by FBI agents after reportedly hiding from U.S. authorities in China’s San Francisco diplomatic consulate.

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Days before Tang’s arrest, another Chinese researcher, Song Chen, was arrested on charges of lying on her visa application. She was similarly accused of hiding her ties to the Chinese military and ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Charging documents in Tang and Song’s cases also listed Xin Wang as another Chinese national arrested on June 7, at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) while attempting to leave the U.S. to return to China.

The Wall Street Journal noted a pattern of “cat-and-mouse” tactics by Chinese nationals accused by the U.S. of stealing research or concealing their ties to Chinese institutions. As several of the arrest cases have shown, many cornered Chinese nationals have been observed either attempting to escape arrest or to destroy evidence.

U.S. federal agents began a sweep for Chinese nationals in June, ahead of a July decision by the U.S. State Department to close China’s diplomatic consulate in Houston, Texas. According to the Journal, as the State Department ordered China’s Houston consulate closed, it also called on the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. to withdraw any Chinese military-linked researchers still in the U.S.