Chinese citizens wait to submit their visa applications at the US
Embassy where blind rights activist Chen Guangcheng is believed to be
hiding, in Beijing on May 2, 2012.( MARK RALSTON/AFP/GettyImages)
A Chinese national was arrested and charged with criminal visa fraud for allegedly omitting his ties to a university linked to China's People's Liberation Army on his student visa application, U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross of the Western District of New York announced on Aug. 3.
Jiaxuemo Zhang, 28, a resident of Amherst, New York, is pursuing a master's degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo under an F-1 nonimmigrant visa issued by the U.S. State Department in 2021. According to the complaint, Mr. Zhang conducted research and studied at Beihang University in China, which is known to do research for the Chinese military.
He omitted that information in his visa application outlining his education history and research activity. The only university listed was China University of Mining and Technology Beijing.
If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Beihang University is designated as one of China's “Seven Sons of National Defense” and houses nine major Chinese defense laboratories, including the National Laboratory of Computational Fluid Dynamics co-established with a military academy. Mr. Zhang conducted research in this laboratory.
During his time there, Mr. Zhang was mentored by Chongwen Jiang, the deputy director of the Military Research Office.
Last December, Mr. Zhang began to apply to doctoral programs in the United States, and the agent on his case alleged that the information on the CV he submitted differed from that on his visa application, revealing ties to Beihang University.
"My client is a Chinese student at the University at Buffalo. The Government alleges that he left information off his visa application to study in the United States. Mr. Zhang simply wanted to come here because America can provide him with the best education in the world. We look forward to sorting this all out as the case proceeds," Fonda Dawn Kubiak, assistant federal public defender, told the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times.
"Mr. Zhang entered a not guilty plea to the charge and is presumed innocent. The case is in the early stages of the criminal trial process. At this point, the defense team will review and assess the government's evidence and thereafter formulate our defense as the case proceeds."
Mr. Zhang appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer on July 28 and was released on conditions pending further legal proceedings.
Students Collecting Technology for China
According to historical annual reports from Open Doors, there has been an explosion in the number of Chinese students enrolling in the United States in the past two decades, seeing a five-fold increase to 317,000 in 2020 from 60,000 in 2000. The upward trend dipped to 290,000 in 2021, but Chinese students still make up the majority of international students.
In May 2020, then-President Donald Trump signed a proclamation suspending certain students and researchers from entry as nonimmigrants. The proclamation went into effect on June 1 of that year.
"The [People's Republic of China] authorities use some Chinese students, mostly post-graduate students, and post-doctorate researchers, to operate as non-traditional collectors of intellectual property," the proclamation reads.
These students and researchers "are at high risk of being exploited or co-opted" by China to acquire "sensitive United States technologies and intellectual property to modernize its military."
The effort is "wide-ranging and heavily resourced" and "is a threat to our Nation's long-term economic vitality and the safety and security of the American people," the proclamation reads.
The proclamation barred nonimmigrant Chinese nationals from obtaining F or J visas if they have received funding from, been employed by, studied at, or conducted research on behalf of entities with ties to China's "military-civil fusion strategy" or its efforts to acquire foreign technologies. It makes an exception for students seeking to pursue undergraduate studies and asylum seekers, among others.
The FBI has repeatedly warned that China's communist regime is targeting businesses, universities, and government research facilities to obtain artificial intelligence research and products in order to advance their own technologies, posing a national security threat.