Thousands of Chinese students attending American universities will be expelled from the country amid growing tensions with Beijing, according to a report.
The New York Times, citing discussions with U.S. officials close to the move, reported Thursday that the Trump administration plans to cancel the visas of graduate students and researchers from China who have direct ties to universities affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army.
It said the move would mean the expulsion of at least 3,000 of the 360,000 Chinese students studying in this country.
It said there were discussions to take action against canceling the student visas prior to this week, but Beijing’s move to exert more control over Hong Kong has pushed the action forward.
The Trump administration plans to cancel the visas of thousands of Chinese graduate students and researchers in the U.S. who have direct ties to universities affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army, U.S. officials with knowledge of the plans said https://t.co/74Pc8YXQ28
— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 28, 2020
China is working toward legislation that would jeopardize Hong Kong’s autonomy by treating acts of “secession, subversion and terrorism” in the region as criminal, The Hill reported.
Leaders in the U.K., Canada and Australia have joined the United States in condemning China’s push to exert control over Hong Kong.
The move to cancel visas, however, is rooted in the U.S. belief that China’s military trains college students in espionage before they come to this country and attend American universities.
The Times did not give a timeline for the expulsions and did not name any universities, either in China or in the U.S., that could be affected.
The U.S. intelligence community warned of the possibility of mass espionage by Chinese students in a report released in 2019.
A World Wide Threat Assessment from the intelligence community outlined the dangers potentially posed by Chinese nationals abusing American institutions of higher learning to advance the communist country’s international goals.
“We assess that China’s intelligence services will exploit the openness of American society, especially academia and the scientific community, using a variety of means,” the assessment read, according to CNN.
The most recent high-profile example of alleged espionage by Chinese students studying in the U.S. occurred in January, when two Chinese nationals and a Harvard University professor were charged with “aiding the People’s Republic of China,” according to the Justice Department.
Chinese nationals Yanqing Ye, 29, and Zaosong Zheng, 30, were targeted in a DOJ investigation that also included Harvard professor Dr. Charles Lieber, 60.
Lieber is accused by the DOJ of secretly working for the Wuhan University of Technology China’s Hubei province and drawing a salary of $50,000 a month to help China bolster its recruitment of international talent.
Ye is described as “a Lieutenant of the People’s Liberation Army” who “falsely identified herself as a ‘student’” on her visa.
She was charged with multiple crimes in absentia, as she had returned to China.
Those charges included “acting as an agent of a foreign government and conspiracy.”
Zheng was arrested at Boston’s Logan International Airport in December and charged with “attempting to smuggle 21 vials of biological research to China,” a DOJ brief about the arrest stated.
The alleged plot by the three is just one of many cases tried or investigated by the Justice Department in recent years involving Chinese nationals allegedly taking advantage of the country through U.S. universities.
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