Beijing threatens to take Americans in China hostage if the Justice Department does not dismiss prosecution of several Chinese researchers arrested on U.S. soil this year, according to a report Saturday.
Chinese government officials have repeatedly warned their US counterparts that Americans in China could be detained if its demands are not met, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
The drastic action – called “hostage diplomacy” – would be in retaliation for the arrest of at least five Chinese military-affiliated researchers visiting US universities to conduct research.
The researchers were accused of visa fraud for allegedly lying to US immigration authorities about their active duty status to China̵
The nation only began issuing the warnings over the summer after Chinese researcher Juan Tang, who worked at the University of California, Davis, was questioned by the FBI and spent a month in the Chinese San Francisco consulate.
Chinese officials promised to retaliate if she was not allowed to leave the consulate and return home, according to the report.
U.S. officials expected China to deal with the threat – but it did not, and the FBI arrested Tang in July as she left the consulate, the Journal reported.
Tang is currently out of bail after pleading guilty to visa fraud charges. Her lawyer, Malcolm Segal, denied that China had tried to interfere in his client’s case.
At least four other investigators have been accused of hiding their ties to the Chinese military and pleaded guilty to similar charges.
The State Department ordered China to close the Houston consulate in July and asked all Chinese military researchers left in the United States to leave.
Sources told the Journal that the decision was made after U.S. officials said Chinese diplomats coordinated with scholars to gather groundbreaking scientific research from U.S. universities.
A State Department spokesman declined to comment on China’s alleged threats, but told the newspaper: “We warn U.S. citizens that business disputes, court rulings to pay for a solution or the government’s investigation into both criminal and civil issues could result in a curfew that would ban your departure from China until the issue is resolved. ”
“We are aware that in other cases, the Chinese government has detained American, Canadian and other individuals without legal basis to retaliate against legal action and exert pressure on their governments with a gross disregard for the people involved,” said John Demers. , head of the Ministry of Justice’s national security department.
“If China wants to be considered one of the world’s leading nations, it must respect the rule of law and stop taking hostages.”