More than a thousand researchers from China have left the United States (US) amid a US crackdown on alleged technology theft. This was conveyed by US security officials who added that China was targeting Joe Biden’s future government.
Quoting SCMP, Thursday, December 3, the head of the US Department of Justice’s National Security Division, John Demers, said during a discussion organized by the think tank Aspen Institute that the researchers had left the country. The US Justice Department also launched several criminal cases against Chinese operations for industrial and technology espionage.
A Justice Department official said the thousand Chinese researchers who recently left the US were a different group from the one the State Department named in September. At that time, the US revoked visas for more than a thousand Chinese nationals under a presidential decree denying entry to students and researchers deemed a security risk.
The official said the researchers, Demers, were believed to be affiliated with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. They fled the US after the FBI conducted interviews in more than 20 cities and the State Department closed the Chinese consulate in Houston in July.
“Only China has the resources and capabilities and willingness to engage in the breadth of foreign influence activity that US agencies have seen in recent years,” Demers said.
Citing The Washington Post, a Chinese espionage expert named James Mulvenon – who researches the extent of Chinese infiltration at US research institutes – said the FBI since June has interviewed 50 to 60 researchers believed to be affiliated with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army who is around 20 cities.
After the Chinese government learned of the FBI’s interest in these individuals, Chinese diplomats quickly alerted investigators to the FBI investigation and urged them to clean up electronic devices and social media chats.
Mulvenon said he was not sure that there were a thousand active researchers associated with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in the US. But Mulvenon said it’s possible that many researchers affiliated with state institutions and universities over the past year fear they will lose their scholarships.
Meanwhile, Biden’s transition team declined to comment. Biden’s team said over the summer that it expected cyberattacks and was prepared to deal with the problem. Evanina said Chinese researchers in the US who were under the supervision of US agencies “all came here on the orders of the Chinese government.”
China has described the visa clampdown in early 2020 as political persecution and racial discrimination that seriously violates human rights. The deteriorating Sino-US relationship has only worsened in recent decades during the tenure of US President Donald Trump. The dispute simulates over issues from trade and technology to Hong Kong and COVID-19.