Chinese researcher faces visa fraud charge for concealing ties to military

A Chinese researcher who stands accused of lying on a visa application about her ties to the Chinese military has been taken into custody and booked into a northern California jail, the Taipei Times reported.

Tang Juan was reportedly apprehended by the U.S. Marshals Service and is now being held on behalf of federal authorities, according to records at the Sacramento County Jail. Her first appearance in court could come as soon as Monday.

Chinese nationals charged

A news release from the Justice Department on Thursday noted that Tang and three other researchers were caught lying about their affiliation with and service to the communist Chinese regime’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in their visa applications to enter the United States.

The suspects had all been taken into custody already, except for Tang, who sought refuge in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

According to the DOJ release, Tang dishonestly answered “No” to the question on her visa application asking if she had any prior military service.

That was proven to be a lie when multiple pictures were discovered showing Tang in a PLA military uniform, and references to Tang’s service in the Chinese Air Force were also discovered as confirmation of the suspicions, the DOJ release also noted.

Tang and the other three charged individuals all face a single count of visa fraud and, if convicted, could face up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

International intrigue

The Taipei Times reported that Tang entered the U.S. in late 2019 to take a job with the University of California–Davis as a visiting researcher in the school’s Department of Radiation Oncology, a job that she reportedly left in June, according to the university.

That job was part of a study-based exchange program between the Univeristy of California system and the Chinese Ministry of Education, which provided the funding for Tang’s research work. What, exactly, she was researching — and, quite possibly, surveilling — has yet to be revealed.

According to the South China Morning Post, the FBI actually interviewed Tang in her home back on June 20, and it is believed that discussion is what prompted her to suddenly leave her position at the school and seek refuge in the Chinese consulate.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Tang and the other three who were arrested were just a few of an unspecified number of other Chinese visa holders in 25 other American cities who have been investigated and interviewed over similar suspicions of lying on their visa applications about their ties to the Chinese military.

Whether or not this story is the tip of a much larger iceberg in the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China remains to be seen.

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