China has warned the US it will take Americans hostage if the Department of Justice doesn’t release Chinese research scientists accused of lying about working for the People’s Liberation Army, according to sources.
People familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal Chinese government officials have warned their American counterparts repeatedly and through multiple channels including through the US Embassy in Beijing that the nation will take drastic action if their demands are not met.
The move, known as ‘hostage diplomacy’, would be in retaliation for the arrests of several Chinese scientists on US soil this year.
At least four scientists have been detained and charged with visa fraud for allegedly lying to US immigration to gain access to working at notable US medical research universities all the while secretly working for the Chinese military.
China is demanding the DOJ drop the charges against them.
China has warned the US it will take Americans hostage if the Department of Justice doesn’t release Chinese research scientists accused of lying about working for the People’s Liberation Army, according to sources. Warnings came through the US Embassy in Beijing (above)
Sources said China first started warning America it would take US nationals residing in China hostage back in the summer.
On one occasion in June, China threatened to detain an American if the US didn’t let research scientist Juan Tang return to China.
Tang was questioned by the FBI in June after a photo emerged online of her in PLA uniform.
She had claimed on her visa application she was never part of the Chinese military.
Tang was supposedly working at the University of California on cancer research.
Prosecutors later said they found Chinese military documents about research ‘related to antidotes for biological agents’ on her electronic devices.
Tang holed up in China’s San Francisco consulate for a month after being questioned by the FBI and China vowed retaliation if she wasn’t permitted to leave and return to China, sources told the Journal.
When Tang left the consulate grounds in July the FBI arrested and charged her with visa fraud.
The move, known as ‘hostage diplomacy’, would be in retaliation for the arrests of several Chinese scientists on US soil this year accused of lying to US immigration to come to work at notable US medical research universities all the while secretly working for the PLA (above)
US officials are yet to confirm the reports however the US State Department issued a travel advisory in September warning Americans that China carries out ‘arbitrary and wrongful detentions’ including ‘to gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments’
Sources said US officials expected China to retaliate by taking an American hostage but it didn’t.
Tang has since been released on bail and her lawyer, Malcolm Segal denied China had interfered at all in her case.
‘The Chinese government has played no role whatsoever in the case itself or in her defense, nor do I ever expect them to do so,’ he told the Journal.
In June, China allegedly threatened to detain an American if the US didn’t let Tang Juan (above) return to China
At least three other researchers accused of lying about their ties to the Chinese military have also been charged on similar counts.
In June, Xin Wang, a scientific researcher and high-ranking military officer with the PLA, was detained at LA International Airport when he tried to board a flight to Tianjin with stolen university research materials, according to court records.
US authorities said in a criminal complaint that Wang lied on his application to obtain a visitor visa for a work-study exchange program.
He then used this visa to work with scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where he collected information to take back to China under the orders of the PLA military lab.
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 he applied for a visa to study machine learning and artificial intelligence at Indiana University.
The DOJ said Zhao served in the National University of Defense Technology, the PLA’s premier institution for scientific research and education.
Zhao also allegedly 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 she entered the US in 2018 on the grounds she was going to carry out research on brain disease at Stanford University.
She claimed she was in the PLA in 2011 but had left and was now working at ‘Xi Diaoyutai Hospital’ as a neurologist.
US officials say the hospital was a cover for her job at the PLA and found documents on her hard drive about the elaborate ploy.
Kaikai Zhao served in the National University of Defense Technology, the PLA’s premier institution for scientific research and education, DOJ said
Sources have previously claimed concerns about China stealing information from American universities was one of the key reasons for the US ordering China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, in July.
The US gave the nation just 72 hours to depart – a move Beijing blasted as ‘political provocation’ and which saw people hurriedly burning documents in the building’s courtyard.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the time the shock decision was taken because China was ‘stealing’ intellectual property and Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell ordered that all Chinese military researchers also leave the US at the same time.
Sources later told the Journal the decision was made after US officials said cutting-edge research was being stolen from top American universities and sent back to Beijing.
US officials are yet to confirm the reports of China’s threats to detain US citizens.
However the US State Department issued a travel advisory in September warning Americans that China carries out ‘arbitrary and wrongful detentions’ including ‘to gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments’.
‘The PRC government arbitrarily enforces local laws, including by carrying out arbitrary and wrongful detentions and through the use of exit bans on U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries without due process of law,’ the advisory reads.
‘The PRC government uses arbitrary detention and exit bans: to compel individuals to participate in PRC government investigations, to pressure family members to return to the PRC from abroad, to influence PRC authorities to resolve civil disputes in favor of PRC citizens, and to gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments.’
A spokesperson for the US State Department told DailyMail.com American officials ‘frequently stress to the Chinese government – including at the highest levels – our concern about China’s coercive use of exit bans on US citizens and citizens of other countries, and will continue to do so until we see a transparent and fair process’.
Tensions have been escalating between the US and China and the US ordered China to close its consulate in Houston in July
The spokesperson confirmed the travel advisory to China and Hong Kong was updated on September 14 to a ‘Level 3: Reconsider Travel’ status saying this was both ‘due to COVID-19 and risk due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws’.
‘We warn US citizens traveling to China about the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, in particular, the exit bans imposed on US citizens,’ they said.
John Demers, head of the Justice Department’s national security division, told the Journal the Chinese government has ‘detained American, Canadian and other individuals without legal basis to retaliate against lawful prosecutions and to exert pressure on their governments, with a callous disregard of the individuals involved.’
However the outlet reported he would neither confirm nor deny the claims of hostage threats and simply said that ‘if China wants to be seen as one of the world’s leading nations, it should respect the rule of law and stop taking hostages.’
China has been known to detain foreign nationals in the country over what other nations claim are baseless allegations, as part of a ‘hostage diplomacy’ tactic.
Tensions have been escalating between the US and China for some time.
Donald Trump has repeatedly accused Beijing of a cover-up over the coronaviurus pandemic and refers to the virus as the ‘China virus’.