Federal Government Drops Charges Against Chinese National Accused of Spying for the Chinese Communist Party

Prosecutors for the federal government have dropped charges against a former PHD student at Indiana University who was accused of committing acts of espionage on behalf of the Chinese government. 

According to allegations by the US attorney for Indiana’s southern district, Zhao Kalkai, the Chinese national in question, allegedly lied on his 2018 visa application to migrate to the US and study at IU. 

The U.S. attorney for Indiana’s southern district alleged Zhao Kaikai lied on his 2018 visa application to enter the United States and study at IU. According to Patrick McGerr of the Herald Times, “Zhao, who is no longer listed as an IU student, was pursuing a doctorate in informatics and studying artificial intelligence.”

Zhao was arrested in July 2020 and received an indictment on charges for lying on his visa and lying to federal investigators about his military service for China. The day before his arrest, Zhao was allegedly spotted by federal agents meeting up with officials from the Chinese consulate in Chicago at a Bloomington park. 

The investigators contended that Zhao was part of a Chinese government plot to steal intellectual property and technology from American universities and transfer it to China.

Zhao is just one of a group of Chinese nationals who had their charges dropped by the Department of Justice. Wyn Hornbuckle, DOJ deputy director of  public affairs, declared in a statement, “Recent developments in a handful of cases involving defendants with alleged, undisclosed ties to the People’s Liberation Army of the People’s Republic of China … have prompted the Department to re-evaluate these prosecutions, and we have determined that it is now in the interest of justice to dismiss them.” 

Bradley Banks, Zhao’s attorney who works for the Indianapolis law firm Banks & Brower, revealed that his client’s charges were dropped. Banks also noted that Zhao continued to be held in custody, which stood in contrast to other Chinese researchers who returned to China. Zhao was in federal custody in Kentucky until July 27. Zhao has been in custody since he was arrested 12 months ago.

According to Hornbuckle, one of the Department of Justice’s main priorities is tackling the Chinese government’s espionage and subversion efforts in American institutions of higher learning. 

If the US government was serious about tackling Chinese espionage, it would immediately enact an immigration moratorium, with a particular focus on greatly reducing legal migration from China. Chinese nationals are among the largest legal migrant groups in the US, and the Chinese Communist Party recognizes the value that Chinese migrants have as spies in both the educational and business sectors.

Severe immigration restriction measures would deprive China of a fifth column and also make it harder for it to steal American trade secrets that generally help the East Asian country close the power gap with the US.