U.S. Government Found Half-Dozen Chinese Military Researchers Who Lied About Their Visas Status

So far in 2020, the U.S. government uncovered a half-dozen individuals connected to China’s People’s Liberation Army who lied on their student visa applications. These Chinese nationals were allegedly in the U.S. to pursue an education.

Jerry Dunleavy of the Washington Examiner stated that this is “just one of many statistics cited by the Justice Department related to charges against and prosecutions of Chinese Communist Party-linked individuals as it touted the success of its China Initiative on Monday.”

“In the last year, the Department has made incredible strides in countering the systemic efforts by the PRC to enhance its economic and military strength at America’s expense,” Attorney General William Barr declared. “While much work remains to be done, the Department is committed to holding to account those who would steal, or otherwise illicitly obtain, the U.S. intellectual capital that will propel the future.”

Earlier this summer, the Justice Department charged a number of members of the Chinese military for hiding their connections to China’s military, in addition to committing visa fraud while pretending to be students or researchers at American universities. Diplomatic tensions between the two countries have risen as the State Department recently closed the Chinese Consulate in Houston after allegations that it was conducting espionage in the U.S.

“This year, the FBI and Department prosecutors also exposed six individuals, studying in the United States, found to be connected to People’s Liberation Army military institutes, who concealed their affiliations from the State Department when applying for research visas to study at U.S. universities. In one of those cases, the Department alleged that a PLA officer was being tasked by superiors in the PRC to obtain information that would benefit PLA operations. In another case, a PLA medical researcher stands accused of following orders to observe lab operations at a U.S. university, which received funding from the U.S. government, in order to replicate those operations in the PRC,” the Justice Department outlined. The Justice Department added, “after the FBI conducted interviews this summer that led to charges in those cases and the State Department closed the PRC’s Houston Consulate, a large number of undeclared, PLA-affiliated Chinese researchers fled the United States.”

The Justice Department claims that in the last year, it had pressed charges in three economic espionage cases where trade secret theft had the intention of benefiting the Chinese government. These recent cases of economic espionage brought the total to five since the China Initiative kicked off in 2018. Dunleavy observed “more than 10 total trade secret theft cases connected to China over the past two years and three such guilty pleas in the past year.”

“The Chinese Communist Party’s theft of sensitive information and technology isn’t a rumor or a baseless accusation. It’s very real, and it’s part of a coordinated campaign by the Chinese government, which the China Initiative is helping to disrupt,” FBI Director Christopher Wray stated. “The FBI opens a new China-related counterintelligence case nearly every 10 hours and we’ll continue our aggressive efforts to counter China’s criminal activity.”

The FBI director revealed that in July the federal agency has over 2,000 active investigations that point to Chinese government involvement in espionage and other activities that undermine American domestic affairs. Even more alarming, these cases marked a 1,300 percent increase from over a decade ago.

Of the researchers arrested, some were busted for hiding their connections to China’s Thousand Talents program while being the recipient of U.S. government grants. The U.S. government has arrested several American scientists for not being forthright about their work with the Chinese government, which includes Harvard’s chemistry department chairman, Charles Lieber.

“While membership in these talent programs is not per se illegal, and the research itself may not always be protected as a trade secret, we know the PRC uses these plans, such as the well-known Thousand Talents Program, as a vehicle to recruit individuals with access to U.S. government-funded research to work in the interest of the Chinese Communist Party,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Adam Hickey said.

The Justice Department recently announced that in the last year it had also charged 10 academics working at American research institutions for fraud, false statements, tax, smuggling, and other violations. There were three convictions included. Further, the DOJ claims to have opened a “record number” of overall Foreign Agents Registration Act investigations over the past year. These included a  “record number” of registrations from Chinese media companies.

American policymakers must start recognizing the cold, hard fact that China is an adversarial nation, who seeks to compete with the U.S. in underhanded ways. One way the U.S. can slow down China’s rise and keep it from destabilizing America is by enacting immigration restriction. Whether politicians get the memo is a different story. 

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