China warns it may detain Americans in response to prosecution of researchers

Elias Hubbard
October 19, 2020

According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, Beijing could apprehend United States citizens in retaliation for the prosecution of Chinese scientists in the USA who lied about their ties with the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

A number of Chinese scientists working at United States universities were reportedly detained earlier on charges of concealing from immigration authorities their active duty statuses with the People's Liberation Army, feeding into Trump administration's allegations that Beijing's diplomats were recruiting researchers for an "intelligence-gathering scheme".

Asked for a response, the State Department said only that USA citizens in China could face various legal hassles that "will prohibit your departure from China until the issue is resolved".

USA officials had alleged that Chinese diplomats were using the scientists as part of an intelligence-gathering scheme, according to an August report by the outlet.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington and China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn't respond to the newspaper's requests for comment, it said.

John Demers, head of the Justice Department's national security division, similarly did not offer a comment on the current report. On Thursday, China's ambassador to Canada hit back at Mr. Trudeau at a media event marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Asked by a journalist if he was issuing a threat, Mr. Cong replied: "That is your interpretation".

China also dismissed all United States accusations of seeking to fulfil its military and technological ambitions in ways that might jeopardise American national security.

At the time, a State Department spokeswoman said the United States continued to welcome "legitimate students and scholars from China who do not further the Chinese Communist Party's goals of military dominance". This incident as well as others involving Chinese researchers over the summer is said to have accelerated the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, which led to the reciprocal shutting of the USA consulate in Chengdu, China. "It's a real game-changer that could carry significant risk for both sides".

In June, Chinese scientist Juan Tang, a medical researcher at the University of California, was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation before taking refuge in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. US Justice Department began arresting and prosecuting Chinese scholars conducting research in US institutions.

Currently, Tang is out on bail and awaiting her trial.

In addition to Ms. Tang, four other researchers recently accused of hiding their ties to the Chinese military have pleaded not guilty to similar charges.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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