/ October 19, 2020
The communist government in China has threatened to detain Americans in China in retaliation for the U.S. Department of Justice's prosecution of Chinese scientists visiting the U.S. who were charged with concealing their active duty People's Liberation Army (PLA) status.
"The Chinese officials have issued the warnings to U.S. government representatives repeatedly and through multiple channels, including through the U.S. Embassy in Beijing," the Wall Street Journal reported
on Saturday, citing people familiar with the matter.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began issuing the threats this summer after U.S. authorities began arresting a series of Chinese scientists who were visiting American universities to conduct research.
The scientists were charged with concealing from U.S. immigration authorities their active duty statuses with the PLA, the report said.
The arrests of the Chinese scientists were the subject of a Wall Street Journal article that also reported U.S. allegations that Chinese diplomats were coordinating activities with the researchers, and described that as a factor in ordering China to close its Houston consulate in July and remove the remaining military scientists from the country.
Ordered by the Trump administration to close their consulate in Houston within 72 hours, Chinese diplomats were frantically burning documents in open metal barrels on the facility’s grounds while keeping local firefighters at bay, according to a July 22 report by The Washington Times.
The threats from China about detaining Americans came after Chinese military-affiliated scientists took up residence in China’s San Francisco consulate for a month after being questioned by the FBI in June, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
Chinese officials told their U.S. counterparts they would detain an American in China if the U.S. didn’t allow the researcher, Tang Juan, to leave the consulate and return to China. The FBI arrested Tang in July when she left the consulate grounds. Currently, Tang is out on bail after pleading not guilty to visa fraud charges.
U.S. officials say they expected China to make good on the threat, but it didn’t.
In addition to Tang, four other researchers recently accused of hiding their ties to the PLA have pleaded not guilty to similar charges. Two are scheduled to face trial next month.
The U.S. State Department issued a warning to U.S. citizens who are in China: “We warn U.S. citizens that business disputes, court orders to pay a settlement, or government investigations into both criminal and civil issues may result in an exit ban which will prohibit your departure from China until the issue is resolved.”
In a September travel advisory, the State Department recommended Americans avoid China travel for a number of reasons, including a warning that the Chinese government detains other countries’ citizens “to gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments.”
John Demers, head of the DOJ's national security division, said: “We are aware that the Chinese government has, in other instances, 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.”
Free Press International