FBI: Researcher being harbored at Chinese consulate in San Francisco

The FBI believes the Chinese consulate in San Francisco is harboring a Chinese researcher who is charged in federal court in California with lying about her military background.

Tang Juan lied about her military affiliation in a visa application last October to work at the University of California, Davis and again during an FBI interview last month, according to Justice Department criminal charges.

Agents found photographs of Tang in a uniform of the People’s Liberation Army civilian cadre and news articles from China that identified her military affiliation. The FBI last month interviewed Tang, when she denied having served in the military or knowing the significance of the insignia of her uniform, and also found more evidence of her military affiliation when they later searched her home, according to a criminal complaint filed last month that charges her with visa fraud.

“The FBI assesses that, at some point following the search and interview of Tang on June 20, 2020, Tang went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, where the FBI assesses she has remained,” prosecutors wrote in a July 20 court filing that seeks the detention of another Chinese scientist who the Justice Department says lied about his military background to get into the U.S.

The allegation comes amid rising tension between the U.S. and China, particularly related to theft of intellectual property — including by Chinese researchers with connections to the military and government — for Beijing’s benefit. Just this week, the U.S. ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, and the Justice Department charged two Chinese hackers with targeting firms working on vaccines for the coronavirus.

An Associated Press reporter was unable to leave a phone message with the consulate before business hours on Thursday morning. No attorney for Tang was listed in court filings.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to give a speech about China on Thursday at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.