China has warned the US that it will take Americans hostage if the Justice Department does not release Chinese researchers accused of lying about working for the People's Liberation Army.
People familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that Chinese government officials had repeatedly warned their American counterparts through multiple channels, including the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, that the nation would take drastic action if their demands were not met.
The move known as "hostage diplomacy" would be in retaliation for the arrest of several Chinese scientists on US soil that year.
At least four scientists were arrested and charged with visa fraud for allegedly lying to US immigration to gain access to work at prestigious US medical research universities while secretly working for the Chinese military.
China is calling on the DOJ to drop charges against them.
China has warned the US that if the Justice Department fails to release Chinese researchers accused of lying about working for the People's Liberation Army, they will take Americans hostage. Warnings came from the US Embassy in Beijing (above)
Sources said China first warned America that it would take US citizens living in China hostage in the summer.
Once in June, China threatened to arrest an American if the US refused to allow researcher Juan Tang to return to China.
Tang was questioned by the FBI in June after a photo of her wearing a PLA uniform appeared online.
She claimed on her visa application that she was never part of the Chinese military.
Tang allegedly worked on cancer research at the University of California.
Prosecutors later said they found Chinese military documents on their electronic devices about research into antidotes for biological agents.
Tang had been hiding at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco for a month after being questioned by the FBI, and China vowed retaliation if she was not allowed to return to and return to China, sources told the Journal.
When Tang left the consulate in July, the FBI arrested her and charged her with visa fraud.
The move known as "hostage diplomacy" would be in retaliation for the arrest earlier this year of several Chinese scientists on US soil accused of lying to US immigration in order to work at prominent US medical research universities while they were there secretly working for the PLA (via)
US officials have yet to confirm the reports, but the US State Department issued a travel advisory in September warning Americans that China is conducting "arbitrary and unlawful detentions," including "to gain leverage with foreign governments."
Sources said US officials expected China to return the favor with an American hostage, but it didn't.
Tang has since been released on bail, and her lawyer Malcolm Segal denied that China had interfered in her case.
"The Chinese government has not played a role in the case itself or in its defense, nor do I ever expect them to," he told the Journal.
In June, China allegedly threatened the detention of an American if the US refuses to allow Tang Juan (above) to return to China
At least three other researchers alleged to have lied about their ties to the Chinese military were also charged similarly.
In June, Xin Wang, a scientific researcher and senior PLA military officer, was arrested at LA International Airport when he was trying to board a flight to Tianjin with stolen university research materials, according to court records.
The US authorities said in a criminal complaint that Wang lied to his application for a visitor visa for a work study exchange program.
He then used that visa to work with scientists at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), where, on the orders of the PLA military laboratory, he gathered information that he was able to bring back to China.
He was arrested and charged with visa fraud.
In July, Kaikai Zhao was also arrested after the DOJ said he also lied about working for the PLA when applying for a visa to study machine learning and artificial intelligence at Indiana University.
The DOJ said Zhao served at the National University of Defense Technology, the PLA's premier academic research and teaching institution.
Zhao also reportedly attended the Aviation University of Air Force – the Chinese equivalent of the US Air Force Academy.
A fourth person – Chen Song – was also arrested in July after traveling to the United States in 2018 for research on brain disease at Stanford University.
She claimed she was in the PLA in 2011 but left it and is now working as a neurologist at the & # 39; Xi Diaoyutai Hospital & # 39 ;.
US officials say the hospital was a cover for her job with the PLA and found documents on her hard drive about the elaborate trick.
Kaikai Zhao served at the National University of Defense Technology, the PLA's premier academic research and teaching institution, the DOJ said
Sources have previously alleged concerns about China's information theft by American universities was one of the main reasons the U.S. ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, in July.
The US gave the nation just 72 hours to leave – a move Beijing called a "political provocation" in which people rushed to burn documents in the building's courtyard.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the time the shock decision was made because China was "stealing" intellectual property and Deputy Secretary of State David Stilwell ordered all Chinese military researchers to leave the US at the same time.
Sources later told the Journal that the decision was made after US officials said that cutting-edge research was stolen from top American universities and sent back to Beijing.
US officials have yet to confirm reports of China's threats to arrest US citizens.
However, the US State Department issued a travel advisory in September warning Americans that China is conducting "arbitrary and unlawful detention," including "to gain bargaining power with foreign governments."
"The government of the PRC is arbitrarily enforcing local laws, including through arbitrary and unlawful detentions and through the application of travel bans on US citizens and citizens of other countries without due process," the report said.
“The government of the PRC is implementing arbitrary detention and exit bans: to force individuals to participate in investigations by the government of the PRC, to pressure family members to return to the PRC from abroad, to influence the authorities of the PRC Resolve civil disputes for the benefit of the citizens of the PRC and gain negotiating leverage over foreign governments. & # 39;
A US State Department spokesman told DailyMail.com that American officials often – including at the highest levels – express to the Chinese government our concerns about China's enforcement of travel bans on US citizens and citizens of other countries, and will continue to do so so until we see a transparent and fair process & # 39 ;.
Tensions between the US and China have increased, and the US has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston in July
The spokesman confirmed that the travel advisory for China and Hong Kong was updated to "Level 3: Reconsider Travel" status on September 14th. This was "due to both COVID-19 and the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws".
"We warn US citizens traveling to China against arbitrary enforcement of local laws, especially US citizens' travel bans," they said.
John Demers, director of national security at the Department of Justice, told the Journal that the Chinese government had illegally arrested Americans, Canadians and others in revenge for legitimate law enforcement and pressure on their governments with persistent disregard would be involved. & # 39;
However, the outlet reported that it would neither confirm nor deny the hostage threat allegations, saying simply: "If China is to be seen as one of the world's leading nations, it should respect the rule of law and end the hostage-taking."
It is known that China is holding foreigners in the country as part of a "hostage diplomacy" tactic on the grounds that other nations claim the allegations are unfounded.
Tensions between the US and China have been escalating for some time.
Donald Trump has repeatedly accused Beijing of covering up the coronavirus pandemic and describes the virus as the "China virus".
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