LOS ANGELES, CA – According to a release from the Department of Justice, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army officer was arrested at LAX airport on June 7th for visa fraud while also allegedly trying to leave the United States in possession of government funded research.
Officer of China’s People’s Liberation Army Arrested at Lax https://t.co/hpeHj3XTzd
SAN FRANCISCO – Xin Wang, a scientific researcher and officer with the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) People’s Liberation Army (PLA), was arrested at Los Angeles In… https://t.co/6jxEaO7RMX
— Symmetrical Data Security, LLC. (@SymDataSec) June 13, 2020
According to the DOJ, Xin Wang had entered the United States on March 26th of 2019 after applying for a J1 visa to enter the United Sates in December of 2018. On Wang’s visa application, he stated that the purpose of his entering the U.S. was to conduct scientific research at the University of California in San Francisco.
However, on this visa application, Wang was alleged to have noted that he was previously employed with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army from September of 2002 until September of 2016.
According to CBP personnel that interviewed Wang as he was attempting to fly to Tianjin, China on June 7th, that aspect of his visa application turned out to be a falsehood.
Upon CBP officials interviewing Wang, the suspect was said to have revealed that he is still actively on the payroll of the Chinese PLA to this day, serving as a “Level 9” technician within the PLA. For the purpose of context, a “Level 9” within the PLA would roughly translate to the rank of a Major within the U.S. military.
FBI charges Xin Wang, Chinese army officer who worked in UCSF lab, w/ visa fraud. The announcement says he hid current army status on visa application and sent info from US lab to China. Context w/ @julianbarnes on US moves on Chinese scholars w/ PLA ties: https://t.co/OIgv5IAUSR pic.twitter.com/h3lGcVHXoU
— Edward Wong (@ewong) June 11, 2020
Investigators say that Wang likely concealed his ongoing enlistment within the PLA in an effort to increase the likelihood of his J1 visa application being approved.
Wang was said to have told investigators that he was instructed by military superiors to “observe the layout of the UCSF lab and bring back information on how to replicate it in China,” according to the report from the DOJ.
The research lab within UCSF that Wang had been working at was said to have been partially funded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. The context of what this specific research was wasn’t elaborated by the DOJ.
Investigators also allege that the phone that Wang had in his possession showed that there were some recent messages from the WeChat messaging app that were deleted prior to his arriving at LAX to fly back to China.
The UCSF website seems to have removed the photo of Wang from their online directory following the suspect’s arrest. However, online users have utilized cached images from the webpage to showcase Wang’s picture from his previous UCSF online bio.
— 公宁(⋟﹏⋞) (@gnhopeful) June 12, 2020
The Special Prosecutions Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is currently handling the case, and Wang has already gone before Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian on June 8th for his initial court appearance and had a second appearance on June 12th.
If Wang is convicted of visa fraud, then he could face up to 10 years in a federal prison along with a fine of $250,000.
Wang’s arrest comes roughly one month after the FBI issues a warning about the People’s Republic of China exploits in America, which the PLA is the military of the PRC.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security have accused the Chinese government of “targeting organizations conducting coronavirus research with cyberattacks, and warned that such companies should take steps to protect their systems, even as they scramble to combat a virus that originated in China,” according to a report from Fox News.
The FBI jointly released a public service announcement with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
That announcement stated, in part:
“The FBI is investigating the targeting and compromise of U.S. organizations conducting COVID-19-related research by [the People’s Republic of China]-affiliated cyber actors and non-traditional collectors.
“These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research.
“The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.
“The FBI and CISA urge all organizations conducting research in these areas to maintain dedicated cybersecurity and insider threat practices to prevent surreptitious review or theft of COVID-19-related material.
FBI is responsible for protecting the U.S. against foreign intelligence, espionage, and cyber operations, among other responsibilities.
“CISA is responsible for protecting the Nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats. CISA is providing services and information to support the cybersecurity of federal and state/local/tribal/territorial entities, and private sector entities that play a critical role in COVID-19 research and response.”
These agencies point to increased media coverage of organizational efforts to combat the pandemic as creating a target rich environment for bad actors.
According to Fox, there is intelligence from numerous countries that “reportedly share the U.S. view” that China actively sought to hide the outbreak from the onset, to the detriment of not only themselves, but the entire world.
As I have said for a long time, dealing with China is a very expensive thing to do. We just made a great Trade Deal, the ink was barely dry, and the World was hit by the Plague from China. 100 Trade Deals wouldn’t make up the difference – and all those innocent lives lost!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2020
President Trump has been vocal about the origin of the virus and his belief that China attempted to hide it from the global community, often referring to the outbreak as the Chinese virus and Wuhan virus, identifying where it originated.
Colleges and universities have banned those phrases, saying that it is akin to hate speech. Cities have passed orders and ordinances against the use of those phrases.
The mainstream media, of course, deems it racist to refer to the virus as outlined above.
But the President was able to succinctly respond to his critics.
He says that the virus started in a lab in Wuhan,China. The Chinese government apparently tried to cover it up as long they could, and now they are allegedly going after groups that are researching the pandemic’s origin and how to stop it.
The questions the President poses are what does China have to hide, and is the World Health Organization helping them?
Better yet, what was this research that Wang was working on, and are these previously mentioned concerns from the FBI in relation to the intel that Wang was alleged to have gathered and shared with the PLA?
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