China-US row: Fugitive researcher 'hiding in San Francisco consulate'
38 minutes ago
A Chinese scientist suspected of visa fraud and concealing ties to the military has fled to China's consulate in San Francisco, the US says.
Prosecutors allege that the case is part of a Chinese programme to send undercover army scientists to the US.
On Wednesday the Trump administration ordered the closure of China's mission in Houston, saying it was involved in stealing intellectual property.
China condemned moves against its scientists and consulates in the US.
Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused the administration of using excuses to limit, harass or crack down on Chinese scholars in the country.
"In response to the US's unreasonable actions, China must make a necessary response and safeguard its legitimate rights," he said at a press conference, describing the US allegations as "malicious slander".
Following the row over the Houston consulate, President Donald Trump threatened to close down more Chinese missions.
In recent months he has clashed repeatedly with Beijing over trade, the coronavirus pandemic and China's imposition of a controversial new security law on Hong Kong.
What are the allegations about the San Francisco mission?
Court filings by prosecutors in a federal court in San Francisco say the defendant, named as Juan Tang, was a biology researcher at the University of California, Davis.
According to the filings, during an interview with FBI agents last month she said she had not served in the Chinese military.
However, the document says, an open-source investigation uncovered photos of her wearing military uniform and a search of her home found further evidence of her affiliation with China's People's Liberation Army (PLA).
"At some point following the search and interview of Tang on June 20, 2020, Tang went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, where the FBI assesses she has remained," the filing, first reported on by the Axios news site, reads.
China foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called the US allegations "malicious slander"
It adds: "As the Tang case demonstrates, the Chinese consulate in San Francisco provides a potential safe harbor for a PLA official intent on avoiding prosecution in the United States."
Prosecutors say that this is not an isolated case but "appears to be part of a program conducted by the PLA" to send military scientists to the US on false pretences.
The document also highlights the cases of two other researchers arrested in California in recent weeks for lying about their alleged ties to the military.