WASHINGTON — Chinese consulates in more than two dozen US cities are aiding undercover Communist Party soldiers posing as students to engage in espionage, senior government officials said Friday.
The bombshell revelation comes after two Chinese military assets at the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, were arrested and charged Tuesday with trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine research.
“The individuals charged there are a microcosm, we believe, of a broader network of individuals in more than 25 cities,” a senior Department of Justice official said.
“That network is supported through the consulates here. Consulates have been giving individuals in that network guidance on how to evade and obstruct our investigation,” he said.
The official said the Houston bust was “merely the tip of the iceberg” and raised the alarm about consulates being exploited for “espionage” because of their sovereign status.
On Thursday evening, US officials also arrested a woman who was being harbored in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco and charged her as part of a scheme in which members of the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army, lied about their visa status.
“The espionage and influence activities run out of a consulate can rise, ultimately to a level that threatens our national security,” the DOJ official said.
Chinese hackers charged with trying to steal vaccine research
The arrests made Tuesday came after a long period of stalled negotiations when officials from China’s ruling Communist Party refused to respect American sovereignty, officials said.
“For years we’ve been asking the PRC to stop these malign criminal activities,” a senior State Department official said.
“The Chinese Communist Party has been getting away with this for too long. The time is now to act and that’s what we have done,” he added.
The US government has been ramping up attacks on China as the Communist country faces intense international scrutiny for hiding the origins of the coronavirus, stealing American intellectual property and detaining minority groups such as the indigenous Uighurs.
In a scathing speech Thursday evening, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the US would no longer ignore China’s “totalitarian” rule and espionage in the US.
“For too many decades, our leaders have ignored or downplayed the words of brave Chinese dissidents who have warned us about the nature of the regime we’re facing. We can’t ignore it any longer,” he said.
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