A former UC Davis researcher charged with fraud for allegedly concealing her identity as a Chinese military scientist is believed to be taking refuge at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, authorities said in a new court filing.
The consulate has been providing a safe harbor for Chinese national Tang Juan to avoid prosecution since she went to the building at 1450 Laguna St. after FBI agents interviewed her on June 20, prosecutors said Monday.
Tang is believed to be part of a Chinese program “to send military scientists to the United States on false pretenses with false covers or false statements about their true employment,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Kingsley.
“There exists evidence in at least one of these cases of a military scientist copying or stealing information from American institutions at the direction of military superiors in China,” Kingsley continued in the court filing.
The news comes amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and China. On Wednesday, U.S. officials reportedly ordered the Chinese government to close its consulate in Houston “to protect American intellectual property.”
Axios first reported on the consulate in San Francisco harboring Tang.
Tang entered the U.S. last December on a non-immigrant visa to conduct research on cancer treatment methods at UC Davis, according to an FBI affidavit in support of the visa fraud charge filed against her June 26.
She answered “no” in her visa application when asked whether she ever served in the military or was “a member of or affiliated with the Communist or other totalitarian party,” authorities said.
But FBI investigators in Sacramento later found a photo of her online wearing a military uniform from the Civilian Cadres of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in April 2019. They also found mentions of her ties to the Air Force Military Medical University.
When FBI agents interviewed Tang at her apartment on Cranbrook Court in Davis on June 20, she “denied serving in the Chinese military and adamantly denied being a member of the civilian cadre,” according to the affidavit.
Tang argued that she needed to wear the uniform to attend a military school and did not know the meaning of the insignia on her uniform.
But agents also found a photo of her in a different military uniform from 2016 while searching her home on June 25.
The FBI concluded that Tang “is part of a civilian cadre whose members are considered active duty military personnel.”
UC Davis has since released a statement saying the School of Medicine is fully cooperating with authorities in the case.
“Juan Tang was a visiting researcher in the Department of Radiation Oncology, funded by the Chinese Scholarship Council, a study-based exchange program affiliated with the China’s Ministry of Education and Xijing Hospital in China,” the statement read.
“Her work was solely based in the research laboratory and she left the University at the end of June,” it continued.
Tang is one of at least four alleged Chinese military scientists facing federal visa fraud charges.
The others are Stanford University researcher Chen Song, UC San Francisco researcher Xin Wang and a Chinese national who conducted research at Duke University referred to only as “L.T.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office outlined the allegations against all four — and revealed that Tang was hiding out at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, in a motion Monday seeking to detain Song.
“As the Tang case demonstrates, the Chinese consulate in San Francisco provides a potential safe harbor for a PLA official intent on avoiding prosecution in the United States,” Kingsley wrote, referring to the People’s Liberation Army.