Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, July 26, 2021
The Department of Justice has dropped cases against five members of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who were accused of lying about their military affiliations in order to secure positions at American universities.
Late last week, prosecutors wrote in a court brief that they would be dropping their criminal cases against Wang Xin, Tang Juan, Song Chen, Zhao Kaikai, and Lei Guan — all of whom had been accused of fraudulently obtaining visas to secure roles at universities in California and Indiana.
Team Biden’s DOJ let the communists slide just days before the State Department’s No. 2 official, Wendy Sherman, travels to China for the first face-to-face meeting of the two countries’ senior officials in more than three months.
Tang had been scheduled to go to trial on Monday. Court papers filed in her case showed FBI analysts casting doubt on the value of the cases, the Wall Street Journal noted in a July 23 report. Judges had dismissed parts of the cases against Tang and another researcher in recent weeks after finding that FBI agents hadn’t properly informed them of their rights against self-incrimination when interviewing them.
The Journal noted that dropping the charges is a “major setback to a landmark effort to root out alleged Chinese intelligence-gathering in the U.S.”
The Trump administration had “embarked on an aggressive effort to target rising concerns among U.S. authorities that American taxpayers are unwittingly funding Chinese scientific development and boosting China’s drive for global pre-eminence,” the Journal noted. “Several academics pleaded guilty to such charges, but others have fought the cases, arguing that the government was misunderstanding the nature of international scientific collaboration.”
The academics had been arrested last July in an FBI sweep that began after Wang acknowledged to law enforcement — as he tried to leave the U.S. — that he had lied about his military service on his visa application to boost his chances of gaining admission to the U.S., and had been tasked with bringing back some information by a supervisor.
“The U.S. ordered China to close its Houston consulate at the time, sending relations between the two countries to their lowest point in at least three decades and prompting the Chinese to order a U.S. consulate closed. The State Department cited evidence that allegedly showed consular officials helping visiting researchers evade scrutiny,” the Journal report noted.
Related: CCP threatens Americans in China after U.S. crackdown on scholars with military ties, October 18, 2020
In criminal complaints, prosecutors detailed the charges against each Chinese national:
• Wang entered the U.S. in March 2019 after securing a J-1 visa in December 2018 to take a scientific research job at the University of California, San Francisco. To obtain his visa, Wang claimed to have been an associate professor in medicine in the PLA from 2002 to 2016. In actuality, prosecutors said Wang was still employed by the PLA while studying in the U.S. and was the equivalent of a major.
• Tang entered the U.S. in December 2019 after securing a J-1 visa in November 2019 to work as a researcher at the University of California at Davis. To obtain her visa, Tang denied ever having been employed by the PLA. Prosecutors, though, discovered Tang was an officer of the PLA Air Force and even found a photo of Tang in her PLA uniform.
• Song first entered the U.S. in December 2018 after securing a J-1 visa in November 2018 to work at Stanford University as a brain disease researcher. In her visa application, Song stated that she worked for the PLA from September 2010 to June 2011. Song, prosecutors said, Song was a member of the PLA when she entered the U.S. and allege that a search of her external hard drive found that she was collecting “important information” from her Standford University job.
• Zhao first entered the U.S. sometime after applying for an F-1 student visa in June 2018 to take a doctoral spot at Indiana University. To obtain his visa, Zhao said he had never been employed by the PLA. In reality, prosecutors said, Zhao served in the PLA’s research and education institution and attended the PLA’s Air Force academy. Zhao was also found in a photograph wearing his PLA uniform.
• Lei first entered the U.S. sometime in 2018 after securing a J-1 visa to work as a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. Prosecutors allege that in July 2020, Lei threw a damaged hard drive into a dumpster near his residence after refusing to allow the FBI to review the hard drive. Lei was accused of giving U.S. software or technical data to China’s National University of Defense Technology and lying about his affiliation with the PLA.
DOJ spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said “recent developments” in the cases had prompted the department to re-evaluate the prosecutions. “We have determined that it is now in the interest of justice to dismiss them,” Hornbuckle said, adding that the agency “continues to place a very high priority on countering the threat posed to American research security and academic integrity by the PRC government’s agenda and policies.”