The FBI believes China’s consulate in San Francisco is harbouring a fugitive accused of lying about her military background.
US authorities claim researcher Tang Juan lied about her military ties when applying for a visa to work at the University of California, and again during an FBI interview last month.
China and the US have clashed repeatedly in recent months over issues including the coronavirus pandemic, trade and Hong Kong.
Agents found photographs of Tang wearing the uniform of China’s People’s Liberation Army and news articles from China that identified her military affiliation, according to a court filing by prosecutors.
In an FBI interview, she denied having served in the military or knowing the significance of the insignia on her uniform.
“The FBI assesses that, at some point following the search and interview of Tang on 20 June 2020, Tang went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, where the FBI assesses she has remained,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
The filing sought the detention of another Chinese scientist who the Justice Department has accused of lying about his military background to get into the US.
It is the latest confrontation between the two nations, after the Trump administration ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston to close on Wednesday.
Washington said the closure was necessary “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”.
Earlier this week, the US charged two Chinese nationals with hacking “hundreds and hundreds” of people in the States and worldwide, including defence contractors and coronavirus researchers.
The pair were described as “one of the most prolific groups of hackers” the FBI has investigated.
China has repeatedly denied hacking the US and other rival powers, and called the closure of its consulate “outrageous”.
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