Chinese Student Living in America Arrested for Allegedly Spying on U.S.


Federal prosecutors confirmed a Chinese citizen living in the U.S. on a visa is facing criminal charges related to allegations that he acted as a spy for his home country.

In a press release this week, the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed that authorities arrested 27-year-old Chicago resident Ji Chaoqun on Thursday.

The suspect “worked at the direction of a high-level intelligence officer in the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security, a provincial department of the Ministry of State Security for the People’s Republic of China,” a complaint said.

After entering the U.S. in 2013 on a F1 Visa permit, authorities say Ji joined the U.S. Army Reserves as part of a program that allows legal aliens with vital skills to participate in certain operations.

“In his application to participate in the (Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest) program, Ji specifically denied having had contact with a foreign government within the past seven years,” the Justice Department statement said, citing court documents.

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It was during “a subsequent interview with a U.S. Army officer” that Ji allegedly acknowledged his communication with Chinese officials.

As part of the alleged spy mission, authorities believe the suspect provided data about individuals who possibly could be recruited by the Chinese government.

According to the Justice Department, an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago says the targeted individuals “included Chinese nationals who were working as engineers and scientists in the United States, some of whom were U.S. defense contractors.”

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Court documents indicate Ji told an undercover FBI agent that he knew the people he had met during trips to his home country in 2013 and 2014 were Chinese intelligence officers.

“They just wanted me to purchase some documents on their behalf,” he allegedly told the agent. “Their reason was just because it was inconvenient for them to make payments from China.”

Ji is expected to face one criminal count of “knowingly acting in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General,” the press release said.

The suspect made an initial court appearance Tuesday.

According to The Associated Press, Ji appeared tired when he addressed U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason.

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After conferring with a translator for much of the hearing, he responded in English when the judge asked if he understood his rights.

“I understand,” Ji said.

In addition to the FBI and law enforcement, the Justice Department credited military intelligence officials for their assistance in bringing the evidence together to file a criminal complaint.

“The U.S. Army 902nd Military Intelligence Group provided valuable assistance,” the statement added.

If convicted, the suspect could face up to a decade behind bars, though prosecutors cautioned that the “criminal complaint is merely an accusation” and Ji “is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
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