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Judge rejects bid to have Chinese UC Davis researcher moved because of death threats

Tang Juan in a Chinese military uniform. (U.S. District Court/Released)

A judge in Sacramento refused Friday to allow a former UC Davis Chinese researcher to move to an apartment for her own safety while she awaits trial on charges of lying about her ties to the Chinese government.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kendall J. Newman said he was sympathetic to concerns about online death threats made against researcher Juan Tang, but that allowing her to move out of a Bay Area lawyer’s home into an apartment is not the answer.

“I don’t think that’s an answer or solution,” Newman said, adding that he questioned whether the threats are credible or “whack jobs posting things on the internet.”

Tang’s lawyers had argued that her safety is at risk if she remains at the home of Foster City attorney Steven Cui because of online threats and increasing tensions between China and the United States.

Sacramento attorneys Malcolm Segal and Tom Johnson argued that Tang has not violated the terms of her release since a judge allowed her to leave the Sacramento County Jail after Cui pledged $750,000 in equity in his home.

They contended that she will be safer in a nearby apartment, wearing a GPS ankle monitor, and that Cui could check on her there without causing further danger to anyone at his home.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Heiko Coppola, who has argued that she never should have been released because she is a flight risk with no ties to the United States, argued that letting her move to an apartment “only increases Tang’s risk of flight while doing little to address the claimed safety concerns.”

“While it is unfortunate that the political situation between the U.S. and China is tense and that the third party custodian (Cui) now feels threatened, neither of these factors necessitate the modification of release suggested by Tang,” he argued. “The decline in U.S. — Chinese diplomatic relations is not a new development.

“Relations with China have been tense for many years with resulting actions and reactions. That various American media outlets have cited this case, among others, in discussing these tensions is not surprising.”

Tang is one of a number of Chinese researchers studying at prestigious American universities who have been accused by the Justice Department of lying to gain access to the United States and research facilities.

Tang is accused of lying on her visa application by claiming she had no ties to China’s military or Communist Party.

She had come to UC Davis to conduct cancer research but never began because the coronavirus pandemic shut down the lab she was to work at.


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