China escalates feud with U.S. over military detainees

Chinese government officials have escalated tension over the DoJ prosecution of multiple Chinese scientists. What happened?


After the United States arrested a number of Chinese scientists who had lied about their affiliation with Chinese military and intelligence authorities, China issued a stern warning against pursuing their prosecution.

  • The arrests were made in August after it became clear that a number of Chinese researchers on temporary residency permits in the United States had failed to disclose their status as active duty military for the People’s Liberation Army.
  • Later, US security officials found that Chinese diplomats, based in a consulate in Houston, had helped the scientists obfuscate their military status and were likely involved in an intelligence-gathering operation on US soil. The United States ordered China to close the Houston consulate and repatriate all remaining researchers involved in the operation.
  • As the Justice Department pursues prosecution of the currently detained Chinese scholars for visa fraud, the Chinese government released a statement yesterday that continuing to do so would result in retaliation.
  • If the DoJ does not stand down, Chinese government officials said yesterday, China will exercise its right to detain US nationals living in China. The US State Department called the threats “hostage diplomacy,” but Beijing says that it is only enforcing its laws to protect national security interests.
  • This is the latest in a series of escalating tensions between the US and China, to include tariffs on imports and trade restrictions.


reporting from the left side of the aisle

  • Highlights other examples of Chinese coercive diplomacy, including the detainment of Canadian officials late last week and the arrest of a NYC police officer accused of spying for China in September.
  • Is generally wary of China’s power and critical of Trump’s response thereto.


  • Portrays China’s tactics as exceedingly hostile, emphasizing the gravity of China’s threats.
  • Suggests that the DoJ should not consider dropping the charges.


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© Evelyn Torsher, 2020