(CN) — Federal authorities in San Francisco have arrested a Chinese woman and charged her with concealing her relationship with the Chinese military in order to conduct research with Stanford University.
The federal government charged Chen Song, 38, with visa fraud in a criminal complaint filed on Friday and made public on Monday, saying the scientist obtained a visa to work and study in the United States only after lying about her affiliation with a research hospital in Beijing and hiding her work for the People’s Liberation Army.
“I believe that Song was intentionally misleading when she claimed no association with the PLA Air Force and could not provide articulable reasons to explain her continued affiliation with elements of the Chinese military,” said FBI agent Joyce Blalock in an affidavit released Monday.
Song was studying neurological disorders at Stanford University with a focus on myasthenia gravis, a disorder that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles that can impair movement and function.
When Song first came to the United States in 2018, she said she had worked previously as a researcher at Beijing Diaoyutai Hospital, according to the affidavit. The FBI found recent pictures of Song with a military ID that contradicted her statement on a visa application that she had disassociated from the Chinese military after graduating from the Fourth Military Medical University in 2011.
She also has published studies from her time in China that are available via the internet that demonstrate she was working for a research organization subordinate to the Chinese Air Force, the affidavit said.
When confronted with the picture, Song told the FBI that she would invoke her right to stay silent, according to Blalock.
After the FBI served a warrant, they found a letter Song attempted to delete from her computer that admitted she had been using a false resume with Diaoyutai Hospital as a front for research she conducted as part of the Chinese military.
Song appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim on Monday.
If convicted of visa fraud, Song faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum of $250,000 in fines. She lives in the United States with her daughter but had talked recently of returning to China for her daughter’s education.
The case comes as international tensions between the United States and China continue to increase.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week ending the special relationship status between the United States and Hong Kong as China passed a new harsh security law and looks to end the city’s autonomy.
The United States government has also passed laws rebuking the Chinese government for its treatment of the Uyghur Muslim population in the country’s remote west. The country responded by issuing sanctions on Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and others.
The two countries are also embroiled in disputes over maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea, with the United States refusing to recognize China’s claims in large swaths of the 1.3 million square miles of ocean.
Increasing attention has been given to Chinese nationals and their possible infiltration of American research universities, as Song is just the latest in a string of arrests of Chinese nationals accused of visa fraud or outright spying for the Chinese government.
Song has not been accused of spying but of misrepresenting her work history on a visa application submitted in 2018.