Over 1,000 Researchers with Ties to Chinese Military Flee the US

Assistant attorney general for national security and head of the Justice Department’s China Initiative, John Demers, revealed that over 1,000 foreign researchers with ties to the Chinese military have fled the United States.

Over 1,000 Researchers with Ties to Chinese Military Flee the US

Assistant attorney general for national security and head of the Justice Department’s China Initiative, John Demers, revealed that over 1,000 foreign researchers with ties to the Chinese military have fled the United States.

The exodus follows recent Justice Department investigations into Chinese foreign espionage. DOJ efforts have resulted in the arrest of half a dozen members of China’s People’s Liberation Army who had entered the U.S. using student visa applications.

The Justice Department has charged multiple members of the Chinese military just this summer for concealing their ties to China. The operatives were posing as students and researchers at U.S. universities.

Demers revealed the figures on Wednesday while in a discussion with National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina and Wall Street Journal reporter Aruna Viswanatha.

Just this summer, we arrested five or six researchers who were here from China on visas who were affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese military, but who hadn’t disclosed that affiliation, had hidden that affiliation, when they applied for their visas. Those five or six arrests were just the tip of the iceberg, and honestly, the six of the iceberg is one that I don’t know that we or other folks realized how large it was when we began down that road.”

But between those five and six arrests, between the dozens of interviews that the bureau did of individuals who were here under similar circumstances, and then ultimately the closure of the Houston consulate to disrupt both foreign influence activity and economic espionage activity, more than 1,000 PLA-affiliated Chinese researchers left the country.”

So our prosecutions were just the beginning of that, but they allowed us to message to the Chinese government that if you’re going to send individuals here, you’ve gotta do so honestly, and you can’t do so hiding their affiliation to the PLA and Chinese military universities … What we’re trying to do in the cases is not just arrest that individual but disrupt a broader course of activity.”

There is no question that they were part of a Chinese government effort to send these individuals here and to send them here without disclosing their identities. And what we saw in the reaction to the arrests, based on other investigative work that we did, was that the Chinese government was instructing those individuals to hide their affiliations, both up front on their application form, and then later when they were afraid of having those folks get caught.”

So there’s no question that this wasn’t a series of coincidences or a series of individuals who didn’t understand their forms — they were part of something bigger. Again, we haven’t charged them with espionage, but our goal here is to disrupt that kind of activity, and you can do that in any number of different ways, and this was one of them.”

In July, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the FBI is conducting over 2,000 investigations that lead back to the Chinese government. He added that current case counts are up 1,300% from just a decade ago.

China is the existential threat we face as a nation … We are looking at $500 billion a year in lost economic investment, proprietary data, and trade secrets to the Communist Party of China — that’s a lot of money,” Evanina said Wednesday.

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