September 19, 2020

USA: Chinese Communist Party Officials At Houston Consulate Engaged In Espionage And Cyber Theft. CCP Involved With Riots Across The Nation. Trump Ordered Closure. China Burned Top Secret Docs.

U.S. Dept of Justice
👉 Thursday, June 11, 2020 👈

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 International Airport (LAX) while attempting to depart the United States for Tianjin, China, and was charged with visa fraud, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.

According to court documents filed today and a complaint which was unsealed on Monday, Wang entered the United States on March 26, 2019, after receiving a multiple entry J1 non-immigrant visa in December of 2018.  Wang’s visa application stated that the purpose of his visit was to conduct scientific research at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).  Wang is alleged to have made fraudulent statements on this visa application.  Specifically, in his visa application, Wang stated that he had served as an Associate Professor in Medicine in the PLA, from September 1, 2002 through September 1, 2016.

In reality, when interviewed by officers of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at LAX on June 7, 2020, Wang provided information that he was, in fact, still currently a “Level 9” technician in the PLA, employed by a military university lab.  CBP officers also obtained information that this roughly corresponded with the level of Major, and that Wang had received compensation from the PLA and the China Scholarship Council—in addition to compensation from UCSF—while in the United States.  According to court documents, Wang was still employed by the PLA while he was studying in the United States and he made false statements about his military service in his visa application in order to increase the likelihood that he would receive his J1 visa. 

Also according to court documents, Wang provided information to CBP that he had been instructed by his supervisor, the director of his military university lab in the PRC, to observe the layout of the UCSF lab and bring back information on how to replicate it in China.  CBP received information that Wang had studies from UCSF with him which he was taking to share with his PLA colleagues, and he had sent research to his lab in China via email.  Wang similarly told his supervising UCSF professor that he had duplicated some of the work of that professor at the lab in China.  Some of the work of the UCSF lab was funded by grants from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Wang also wiped his personal phone of WeChat messaging content earlier the morning he arrived at LAX.

Wang is charged with visa fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a).  If convicted, he faces a maximum statutory penalty of ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000. 

Wang made his initial appearance on Monday, June 8, 2020, in the Central District of California before Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian, and was detained for further proceedings.  His next appearance is scheduled for Friday, June 12, 2020, at 10 a.m., before Judge Chooljian, for a detention hearing.

The case is being prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  The case is being investigated by the FBI.
The Washington Free Beacon
written by Adam Kredo and Yuichiro Kakutani
Friday July 24, 2020 👈

Chinese Communist Party officials operating at a consulate building in Houston, Texas, engaged in espionage operations on Beijing’s behalf and waged cyberattacks across the United States for at least a decade in one of the most sophisticated operations of its nature, according to senior law enforcement and State Department officials.

The Chinese consulate in Houston was ordered by the Trump administration to shutter its operations as of Friday, though it is unclear if China will heed this order. Communist Party officials have been caught shredding documents and other materials since the order was handed down earlier this week in what American officials say is an attempt to destroy evidence of these espionage operations.

The Houston facility is one of 25 known locations across the United States in which China installed undercover operatives to spy on the American government, U.S. businesses, and academic research institutions, according to multiple senior Trump administration officials familiar with the activities. From these outposts, Chinese officials "facilitated covert activity by instructing People’s Liberation Army (PLA) members to purposefully violate U.S. laws by making false statements on their visa applications and lying about their affiliation with the PLA," according to information provided by the State Department. The Houston consulate served as a central base of operations and "targeted more than 50 Houston-area researchers, professors, and academics for participation in Chinese talent plans," which enlist Americans to steal sensitive research on behalf of the Communist Party.

The Trump administration’s landmark order shuttering the Houston consulate is just one piece of a larger effort to thwart Chinese espionage operations in the United States, which officials say have gone unchecked for decades. The Trump administration is expected to take further actions, which include sanctions on officials and the arrest of hackers known to steal information on the Communist Party’s behalf.

"The PRC Consulate in Houston has directed economic espionage and other activities contrary to U.S. law not only in the city of Houston but across the entire southeastern United States," according to the State Department. "The criminal activities directed by the PRC Consulate in Houston include: economic espionage, visa fraud, theft of commercial intellectual property for diversion to the PRC military, theft of medical research for transfer to China, falsification of official documents, and more."

The FBI, which has been investigating China’s operations in the United States along with the State and Justice Departments, said Chinese officials stationed in America have stolen more than $1 billion in trade secrets from American companies. Officials say this just scratches the surface of China’s U.S.-based spy ring.

"I can tell you that Houston—the behavior was once again, not unlike what we've seen throughout the country," a senior law enforcement source said, speaking only on background. "We have over 50 examples over the last 10 years of the Houston consulate supporting talent from members of recruitment in the area, targeting various research centers down there."

In addition to cyber hacks, Chinese officials lured dissidents and other Communist regime critics back to China.
"The folks in Houston were very much active participants in all the various efforts of collection work that the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party is doing," the law enforcement official said.

The FBI also determined that Communist Party officials working in the Houston consulate "were deeply involved" in efforts to transfer sensitive American research back to China in recent months, including proprietary research on the coronavirus and possible vaccines.

It is unlikely the United States will be able to prosecute the individuals it caught running these spy operations due to complications with diplomatic immunity and other factors, according to a senior Justice Department official, who also spoke only on background.
Zooming In with Simone Gao published July 24, 2020: Secrets of the Houston Consulate. The showdown between the US and China has seen a new development this week. On July 22, the US ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas. Staff there have 72 hours to leave or they will face arrest. The State Department said that the closure was ordered “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.” What could have prompted the US to act so quickly? What did the Chinese consulate do in violation of America’s sovereignty? And how is the Houston consulate different from other Chinese consulates? Today, we sat down with Chen Yong-lin, Beijing’s first secretary and consul for political affairs in Sydney, who defected in 2005. We discussed this issue, why the US ordered the shutdown in such a hurry, and what the US intends to accomplish.
The Epoch Times
written by Ivan Pentchoukov
Wednesday July 22, 2020
The Chinese consulate in Houston, which has been ordered by the United States to close, was a “massive spy center” for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to Senate Intelligence Committee acting Chairman Marco Rubio.

“China’s consulate in Houston is not a diplomatic facility. It is the central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies and influence operations in the United States. Now that building must close & the spies have 72 hours to leave or face arrest,” Rubio said on Twitter on July 22, adding that the closure is long overdue.

The United States on July 22 said it ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston to close, according to State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus. The spokeswoman said the closure was ordered “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”

Chinese embassies and consulates worldwide are mandated to influence local politicians and government officials and mobilize members of the Chinese community and Chinese students to advance the CCP’s influence, according to Chen Yonglin, Beijing’s first secretary and consul for political affairs in Sydney, Australia, who defected in 2005.

“The control of the overseas Chinese community has been a consistent strategic objective of the Chinese Communist Party as a way to penetrate into the mainstream of the host country,” he said. “It’s not just in Australia. It is done this way in countries such as the U.S. and Canada too.”

The closure order came on the heels of an indictment of two Chinese nationals for a decade-long cyber espionage campaign in which they were accused of stealing information on weapons designs, drug information, software source code, and personal data.

In April, court documents from an unsealed federal lawsuit in Connecticut alleged that China’s ambassador to the United States and a top Chinese diplomat in New York City facilitated the covert recruitment of scientists in the United States. The Daily Beast was the first to report on the case.

In September last year, the United States expelled two Chinese embassy officials for driving onto a “sensitive” military base in Virginia, the first time in more than 30 years that Chinese diplomats were expelled over suspected espionage acts.

Top U.S. officials have recently amplified their criticism of the CCP, saying the regime is the biggest threat to the United States. 

Roughly 80 percent of all economic espionage prosecutions brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) allege criminal conduct intended to benefit the CCP. China is involved in some way in about 60 percent of all trade secret theft cases, according to the DOJ.

FBI director Christopher Wray said the bureau is opening a new counterintelligence investigation involving China every 10 hours. The bureau has more than 2,000 active China-related investigations, as part of the China Initiative, a large-scale counter-CCP campaign launched in November 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

China called the order to close the consulate “an unprecedented escalation” and said it would retaliate if the United States did not revoke the order. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the United States gave it three days to close the consulate.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the consulate is operating normally, but did not respond to questions about reports of documents being burned in the courtyard of the consulate. A video sent to a local news station and posted on social media showed several open fire pits in the courtyard.

Houston police told FOX 26 that staff there were burning documents because they are being evicted from the building.

“It appears to be open burning in a container within the courtyard of the Chinese consulate facility. It does not appear to be an unconfined fire but we have not been allowed access,” Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Pena told KTRK.

The State Department did not immediately respond to questions about the alleged spy activities at the consulate. Ortagus did not offer further details on the closure order, but pointed to a pair of statements from the Vienna Convention which mandate diplomats to “respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state” and “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that state.”
The Sun published July 23, 2020: Chinese consulate in Houston appears to burn top secret documents after US ordered the office closed.

A fire truck outside a Chinese consulate as workers 'burned top-secret documents' after the United States ordered the office to close its doors.

Police officers responded to a firefighter call at approximately 8.25pm on Tuesday at the China Consulate General in Houston, Texas.

The consulate is located in a Houston building a 3417 Montrose Boulevard, the Houston Police Department explained.

"Smoke was observed in an outside courtyard area. Officers were not granted access to enter the building," the police department tweeted.

"Since HPD is not a lead agency in the matter, no other information is being released by our department at this time."

Witnesses reportedly saw burning papers in garbage cans on the roof of the building.

On Wednesday morning, the US said China was ordered to close the consulate in Houston “to protect American intellectual property" and private information of US citizens.

However, China criticized the order - seemingly prompting papers to be burned at the consulate at night.

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