UPDATED: FBI arresting visiting researchers, including one at Stanford, claiming they were working for China’s military

Song Chen. Photo provided by FBI.

The arrest of a visiting Stanford researcher, Song Chen, for allegedly lying about being a member of the Chinese military is the beginning of a developing story. The following are updates of that story from the Associated Press and the Daily Post newsroom.

FRIDAY, JULY 24, 2:29 p.m. — A Chinese researcher accused of concealing her ties to the Chinese military on a visa application she submitted so she could work in the U.S. was booked Friday into the Sacramento County jail and was expected to appear in federal court Monday.

Tang Juan. Photo provided by the FBI.

Sacramento County jail records show Juan Tang, 37, was being held on behalf of federal authorities after she was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service.

The Justice Department has charged Tang, visiting Stanford researcher Song Chen and two other scientists living in the U.S., saying they lied about their status as members of China’s People’s Liberation Army. All were charged with visa fraud.

Tang was the last of the four to be arrested, after the justice department accused the Chinese consulate in San Francisco of harboring a known fugitive. The consulate did not immediately respond to email and Facebook messages seeking comment and it was not possible to leave a telephone message.

The Justice Department said Tang lied about her military ties in a visa application last October as she made plans to work at the University of California, Davis and again during an FBI interview months later. Agents found photos of Tang dressed in military uniform and reviewed articles in China identifying her military affiliation.

UC Davis said Tang left her job as a visiting researcher in the Department of Radiation Oncology in June. Her work was funded by a study-based exchange program affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education, the university said in a statement.

Agents have said they believe Tang sought refuge at the consulate after they interviewed her at her home in Davis on June 20. The FBI has been interviewing visa holders in more than 25 American cities suspected of hiding their ties to the Chinese military.

China’s consulate in Houston was scheduled to shut down Friday on order of U.S. authorities after Washington accused Chinese agents of trying to steal medical and other research in Texas.
In response, China on Friday ordered the U.S. to close its consulate in the city of Chengdu. — by the AP

THURSDAY, JULY 23, 11 a.m. — The Chinese consulate in San Francisco is harboring a Chinese researcher who lied about her military background while she worked at UC-Davis, the Justice Department said Thursday as it announced charges against that scientist, a Stanford visiting researcher and others accused of concealing their government ties.

The four researchers are accused of lying on applications to work in the United States about their status as members of China’s People’s Liberation Army. All are charged with visa fraud.

The FBI, meanwhile, has interviewed visa holders in more than 25 American cities who are suspected of concealing their ties to the Chinese military. The Justice Department believes that the deception is part of an ongoing, government-sponsored effort to steal research and innovation from American universities for Beijing’s economic gain.

“This is another part of the Chinese Communist Party’s plan to take advantage of our open society and exploit academic institutions,” John Demers, the Justice Department’s top national security official, said in a statement.

The allegation comes amid rising tension between the U.S. and China, particularly related to theft of intellectual property — including by Chinese researchers with military and government connections — 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.

Trump administration officials have escalated their public condemnations of China in the last several weeks, with speeches by FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Three of the four defendants have been arrested. The FBI believes that the fourth, Tang Juan, has been harbored for weeks in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. The Justice Department says the scientist, who is listed in some court filings as Juan Tang, lied about her military affiliation in a visa application last October as she made plans to work at the University of California, Davis and again during an FBI interview months later.

TUESDAY, 5 p.m. — A visiting researcher at Stanford, who was arrested by the FBI for allegedly lying about being a member of the Chinese military, was released from jail today (July 20) with an ankle bracelet after posting $100,000 bail.

Song Chen, 38, appeared this morning at the U.S. District Courthouse in San Francisco before Magistrate Sallie Kim on a charge of visa fraud.

U.S. Assistant District Attorney Abraham Simmons said Kim ordered Song released on the condition that she remain in her aunt’s house on a 24/7 lockdown. Song’s aunt posted $100,000 in equity in her house for Song’s release.

MONDAY, 3:59 P.M. — The FBI has arrested a 38-year-old woman for allegedly lying about being a member of the Chinese military while conducting brain research at Stanford.

Song Chen, a Chinese national, appeared this morning (July 20) at the U.S. District Courthouse in San Francisco before Magistrate Sallie Kim on a charge of visa fraud.

The FBI claims Song entered the U.S. in December 2018 using a J-1 non-immigrant visa that is intended for people in work- and study-based visitor programs.

In her visa application, Song said had only been a member of the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese military, for only nine months and when she arrived she claimed to have been employed at a Beijing hospital.

Song described herself in the visa application as a neurologist who was coming to the U.S. to conduct research at Stanford related to brain disease, the FBI said.

The FBI claims these were lies, that Song was a member of the PLA when she entered the U.S., and that the Beijing hospital she listed on her visa as her employer was a cover for her true employer, the PLA.

Moreover, the FBI claims it has found research papers Song wrote in which she is identified as a member of the PLA Air Force.

The FBI also said it obtained Song’s external hard rive and found a folder she had deleted titled, in Chinese, “2018 Visiting School Important Information.” A search recovered deleted documents from this folder including a letter she wrote to the Chinese Consulate in New York in which she said her stated employer, the Bejing hospital, was a false front.

If convicted, Song faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. She is currently behind bars and is scheduled to return to court today to discuss getting released on bail.

3 Comments

  1. And a Stanford professor was heard to say, “she was arrested? I thought it was our policy to help anyone who is anti-American.”

  2. “Since she is effectively an illegal alien it’s not treason, so I don’t understand what the big deal is Plus, she’s been paying full tuition so everything is just fine.” Marc Tessier-Lavigne

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