The Department of Justice (DOJ) has surprisingly dropped serious charges against five members of the Chinese military accused of forging visas to enter the United States and obtain jobs at universities, presumably to send information to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Late last week, prosecutors issued a court filing announcing that they would drop criminal cases against Chinese military officers Juan Tang, Chen Song, Kaikai Zhao, and Guan Lei. The five were accused of fraudulently obtaining visas to secure jobs at U.S. universities in California and Indiana; prosecutors told the Wall Street Journal.
A DOJ spokesman said that while the “agency continues to place a very high priority on countering the threat posed to American research security and academic integrity,” upon reevaluating the events, “we have determined that it is now in the interest of justice to dismiss them.”
The five Chinese nationals were arrested in July and August of last year as part of a federal crackdown on members of the Chinese military who fraudulently obtained U.S. visas by concealing their ties to the Chinese army, formally known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The defendants submitted J-1 and F-1 work visas in 2018 and 2019. The five Chinese nationals denied their ties to the Chinese regime’s military and the CCP. However, investigations found they all lied on their applications, leading to their imprisonment in 2020.
Furthermore, in Song’s case, it was proven that she was a member of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) when she entered the United States. After analyzing her external hard drive, it was confirmed that she was collecting “important information” from her work at Stanford University.
Lei, in July 2020, threw a damaged hard drive in a dumpster near his residence after refusing to allow the FBI to review its contents. Lei was accused of providing U.S. software or technical data to China’s National University of Defense Technology and lying about his affiliation with the PLA.
Despite these facts being confirmed, the DOJ conspicuously chose to close the cases and clear the defendants of guilt and charges.
When the Chinese nationals were detained, the United States, then ruled by the Trump administration, ordered the Chinese regime to close its consulate in Houston, bringing relations between the two countries to their lowest point in several decades. In immediate response, the Chinese ordered the closure of a U.S. consulate in Chengdu, China.
At the time, the State Department cited evidence allegedly showing that consular officials in Houston helped visiting researchers evade controls.
Interestingly, the DOJ issued its controversial ruling just days before the State Department’s number two, Wendy Sherman, traveled to China to finalize the first face-to-face meeting of senior officials between the United States and the Chinese regime in more than three months.
The Trump administration for four years conducted an aggressive plan to stem growing concerns about Chinese regime spies interested in obtaining information from U.S. universities and military research.
However, the DOJ’s recent actions seem to indicate that the new administration intends to maintain a more relaxed position on the matter and not harm the interests of the Chinese Communist Party, even though they may jeopardize national security.