Chinese National Arrested for Snapping Photos of Military Installations at Naval Air Station in Key West

On December 26, 2019 a Chinese man got up early to take photos of the sunrise on the premises of the Naval Air Station in Key West according to a report from Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald.

Witnessed ended up spotting Lyuyou Liao around 6:50 a.m. on Thursday walking around a perimeter fence and entering the military installation by going through the rocks along the water.

They initially warned Liao that he was illegally entering a restricted area — Truman Annex — as he shot photos of government buildings near “sensitive military facilities,” based on a federal criminal complaint filed Thursday.

The U.S. Military Police saw him taking photos using his cellphone, approached him and reviewed the pictures. The police officers immediately summoned a federal agent, who arrested Liao for entering naval property with the intent of photographing defense installations.

Liao wove his Miranda rights and told the agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in broken English that “he was trying to take photographs of the sunrise,” based on a complaint affidavit.

However, when Liao gave the agent the pass code to his phone and allowed him to review the images, he found “photographs of Truman Annex on the camera.”

The 27-year-old Liao had his first federal court appearance on Friday afternoon in Key West conducted via a video hookup with Magistrate Judge Patrick Hunt in Fort Lauderdale and Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gilbert in Miami. Hunt then appointed the federal public defender’s office to provide Liao with representation and scheduled his pretrial detention hearing for January 6, 2019. Liao will be arraigned next week.

Liao’s arrest is the second time since 2018 that a Chinese national has been charged with taking photos of defense installations at the Key West Naval Air Station.

Key West police caught Zhao Qianli, who claimed that he was a music student from China, for trespassing onto the Naval Air Station.

He subsequently told authorities that he got lost on the tourist trail and did not recognize it was a military base.

Investigators found photos and videos on Qianli’s cellphone in addition to his digital camera that he had taken of government buildings and a Defense Department antenna field on the military facility.

Earlier this year in February, Qianli pleaded guilty to one count of photographing defense installations at the Key West military facility. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore sentenced Qianli to one year in prison.

Not too long after in March, a Chinese woman was arrested at President Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach after she lied her way into Mar-a-Lago to allegedly attend a “United Nations friendship” event that she was aware had been canceled before she left China.

Yujin Zhang ended up being charged with trespassing in a restricted area and lying to a federal agent.

In September, U.S. District Judge Roy Altman convicted Zhang and sentenced her in in November to eight months in prison

Given China’s rise as a superpower and their expansionist foreign ambitions using soft power, the U.S. will need to keep tabs on China’s attempts to exploit the U.S.’s immigration system.

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