The Department of Justice (DOJ) has dropped charges against five members of the Chinese military whom federal prosecutors previously accused of lying to obtain visas to get jobs and a doctoral spot at various universities within the United States. Last week, prosecutors issued a court brief that they intended to drop their criminal cases against China military members Juan Tang, Chen Song, Kaikai Zhao, and Guan Lei — all of whom had been accused of fraudulently obtaining visas to secure roles at U.S. universities in California and Indiana according to Breitbart News.
DOJ officials said that if convicted, the crimes would bring a few months in jail and since the researchers had been detained in the United States since their arrest last year, pursuing the case would “prolong their departure.”
The DOJ said 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
In Fiscal Year 2019, nearly 117,000 Chinese nationals secured F visas to arrive in the U.S. as students. The only country close to sending as many of its nationals to the U.S. as students is India. Last year, more than 46,000 Indian nationals secured F visas.