The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced they are dropping their criminal cases of five members of the Chinese military who were accused of lying to acquire visas to get jobs and a doctoral spot in universities in the U.S.
In a court brief last week, prosecutors announced that the criminal cases would be dropped against China military members Juan Tang, Chen Song, Kaikai Zhao, and Guan Lei – they all had been accused of fraudulently obtaining visas to secure roles at universities in California and Indiana.
DOJ officials told the Wall Street Journal of the dropped the visa fraud charges after a re-review of the case justifying their move as the Chinese nationals have served months awaiting trial in federal prison:
A senior Justice Department official said the punishment for the crimes the researchers were charged with usually amounted to around a few months in prison, and the defendants had all been detained or under other restrictions in the U.S. since their arrest a year ago. That led the agency to determine that further litigation in the group of cases would unnecessarily prolong their departure from the U.S. and that their situations since their arrests amounted to sufficient punishment and deterrence. [Emphasis added]
A Justice Department spokesman said “recent developments” in the cases had prompted the department to re-evaluate the prosecutions. “We have determined that it is now in the interest of justice to dismiss them,” the spokesman, Wyn Hornbuckle, said, adding that the agency “continues to place a very high priority on countering the threat posed to American research security and academic integrity by the PRC government’s agenda and policies.” PRC is an abbreviation for People’s Republic of China. [Emphasis added]
In July and August, the arrest came last year as part of a federal crackdown on members of China’s military fraudulently obtaining visas to the U.S. Their ties to the Chinese military, formally known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), was hidden.
Prosecutors detailed the charges in criminal complaints against each of the Chinese nationals.
- Wang entered the U.S. in March 2019 after securing a J-1 visa in December 2018 to take a scientific research job at the University of California, San Francisco. To obtain his visa, Wang claimed to have been an associate professor in medicine in the PLA from 2002 to 2016. In actuality, prosecutors said Wang was still employed by the PLA while studying in the U.S. and was the equivalent of a major.
- Tang entered the U.S. in December 2019 after securing a J-1 visa in November 2019 to work as a researcher at the University of California at Davis. To obtain her visa, Tang denied ever having been employed by the PLA. Prosecutors, though, discovered Tang was an officer of the PLA Air Force and even found a photo of Tang in her PLA uniform.
- Song first entered the U.S. in December 2018 after securing a J-1 visa in November 2018 to work at Stanford University as a brain disease researcher. In her visa application, Song stated that she worked for the PLA from September 2010 to June 2011. Song, prosecutors said, Song was a member of the PLA when she entered the U.S. and allege that a search of her external hard drive found that she was collecting “important information” from her Standford University job.
- Zhao first entered the U.S. sometime after applying for an F-1 student visa in June 2018 to take a doctoral spot at Indiana University. To obtain his visa, Zhao said he had never been employed by the PLA. In reality, prosecutors said, Zhao served in the PLA’s research and education institution and attended the PLA’s Air Force academy. Zhao was also found in a photograph wearing his PLA uniform.
- Lei first entered the U.S. sometime in 2018 after securing a J-1 visa to work as a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. Prosecutors allege that in July 2020, Lei threw a damaged hard drive into a dumpster near his residence after refusing to allow the FBI to review the hard drive. Lei was accused of giving U.S. software or technical data to China’s National University of Defense Technology and lying about his affiliation with the PLA.
In the U.S., there are nearly 500,000 Chinese students in university classrooms in any given year – more than any other nation, looking to obtain Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization to take jobs in the white-collar professions, as reported by Breitbart News.
Close to 117,000 Chinese nationals students secured F visas in the 2019 fiscal year. India is the only country close to sending as many of its national students, last year, more than 46,000 secured F visas.
China not only dominates F visas but also dominates M and J visas as well. They bring foreign students into vocational education and “cultural and education exchange” volunteers and interns to take camp counselors, au pair, research scholars, professors, and teachers jobs.
China has obtained more than 50,000 J visas and more than 2,200 M visas in 2019.