The Chinese government has issued a fresh threat to the United States, asking the Trump administration to release researchers undergoing prosecution; or face having US citizens detained in China as retaliation. The Justice Department is prosecuting some Chinese researchers in some US universities who hid the fact that they were affiliated with the Chinese military in their visa request.
Chinese officials issued a series of warnings to different US government representatives, including the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The Chinese officials, the US officials said, have not minced words in their calls for the release of their researchers. They have repeatedly told the US in clear terms to release the researchers with no conditions attached or risk have American citizens undergo the same treatment in the opaque justice system of China.
The series of warnings came from China when the US Justice Department said that it had arrested some Chinese researchers for visa fraud after they hid their active duty statuses with China’s People’s Liberation Army. Sources in the Justice Department said that these researchers coordinated with Chinese diplomats to steal innovative scientific research from top US universities under the guise of contributing their quota to the research.
Chinese research scientist Juan Tang was the first of the scientists picked up by the FBI. She worked at the University of California, Davis. When she learned of the FBI’s interests in her, she took up residence in China’s consulate in San Francisco for up to a month. She was eventually arrested by the FBI when she tried leaving the country. She is currently out on bail after pleading not guilty to the charges brought against her by prosecutors. Other researchers have also been charged, and they pleaded not guilty too.
The arrests and subsequent prosecutions were critical to the closure of the Houston consulate back in July in order for the US to eject the remaining scientists that were in the country.
The Chinese latest threats have been tagged “hostage diplomacy” by Washington policymakers. The Chinese government has, in the past, denied the citizens of various countries permission to leave China when it wants to use these citizens as bargaining chips. Most times, it has charged and sentenced the citizens of other countries on charges that have largely been described as bogus and unsubstantiated.
The current threat by China only adds to the escalation of tension between it and the US in recent years. The United States has placed a number of economic sanctions and restrictions against China and its companies, in what the US describes as intellectual theft and espionage, a claim China has repeatedly denied.