Chinese researcher who took 'refuge' in San Francisco consulate now in US custody -- Here's what we know
Tang Juan, one of four visiting researchers recently charged with visa fraud, was detained on Thursday night. She did not have diplomatic immunity as she was not declared as a diplomatic official, say US officials.
A Chinese researcher accused of hiding her military affiliations and believed to have been sheltering for weeks in China's consulate in San Francisco is now in American custody and is expected to appear in court on Monday, US Justice Department officials have said. This marks the latest incident in a growing stand-off between Washington and Beijing.
According to court filings in US District Court in San Francisco this week, Juan Tang, who worked at the University of California, Davis, falsely claimed on her visa application that she had not served in the Chinese military. Juan Tang, 37, was charged with visa fraud on June 26. The Chinese Embassy did not respond to a request for comment on the case.
A senior Justice Department official told reporters Juan Tang was detained on Thursday night and did not have diplomatic immunity as she was not declared as a diplomatic official. Officials said that she was among four Chinese nationals charged earlier this week with visa fraud for allegedly lying about serving in China's People's Liberation Army.
FBI agents found pictures of Juan Tang dressed in military uniform and reviewed articles in China identifying her military affiliation, according to an Associated Press report. It quoted the University of California, Davis, as saying that she left her job as a visiting researcher in the Department of Radiation Oncology in June.
In a court filing unsealed on July 20, prosecutors wrote that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had assessed that following a search and interview of Juan Tang on June 20, she went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, where the FBI said she had remained, despite charges being brought against her on June 26.
Lauren Horwood, the spokeswoman for the US Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of California, said in an email that Juan Tang would appear in court on Monday in Sacramento, Reuters reported. Previously, an official had said Tang's initial appearance was scheduled for Friday.
The researcher's detention occurred amid a deterioration in relations between the two world powers. China on Friday ordered the US to close its consulate in Chengdu after Washington forced the Chinese consulate in Houston to cease operations earlier this week.
SINGAPORE MAN 'ADMITS BEING CHINESE SPY' IN U.S.
Separately, a Singaporean man has pleaded guilty in the US to working as an agent of China, reports say. According to US officials, Jun Wei Yeo was charged with using his political consultancy in America as a front to collect information for Chinese intelligence.
Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, on Friday pleaded guilty in a federal court to working as an illegal agent of the Chinese government in 2015-19, the US Department of Justice said in a statement. In his guilty plea, he admitted to scouting for Americans with high-level security clearance and getting them to write reports for fake clients. He was arrested as he flew in to the US in 2019.
Meanwhile, Chinese staff departed China's Houston consulate to a jeering crowd on Friday after the US government ordered the building closed, calling it a "hub for spying" on American companies and researchers.
About 100 protesters shouted "take back China," denounced the ruling Chinese Communist Party and waved flags as consulate workers loaded belongings into rental trunks. The five-story building this week became the latest flashpoint between Beijing and Washington over trade, the novel coronavirus pandemic and military manoeuvers in Southeast Asia.
Shortly after the 4 p.m. (2100 GMT) deadline to close the consulate, a group of people were seen using power tools and a crowbar to force open the rear door, Reuters reported. They declined to identify themselves to reporters.
A witness cited by Reuters said that consulate staff had exited the building shortly after 4 pm and left in vehicles.
Senior US officials said on Friday that the consulate was one of the worst offenders in terms of Chinese espionage in the US and linked its staff to China's pursuit of a vaccine for the new coronavirus.