Commentary on Political Economy

Friday, 28 August 2020


Chinese Researcher at UCLA Charged With Destruction of Evidence

  • Guan Lei charged in U.S. crackdown amid increased tensions
  • Guan accused by U.S. of destroying a computer hard drive

A Chinese researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles was charged with destroying evidence after he allegedly damaged a computer hard drive beyond repair and threw it in a dumpster days after he had been stopped from leaving the U.S.

Guan Lei, 29, is under investigation for possibly transferring sensitive U.S. software or technical data to China’s National University of Defense Technology and falsely denying his association with the Chinese military when he applied for a visa in 2018, according to a statement Friday from the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.

Guan is the latest Chinese researcher in the U.S. to face criminal charges over alleged ties to the country’s military. The Justice Department has stepped up a crackdown on Chinese researchers amid rising tensions between the two countries over theft of intellectual property, trade and the coronavirus epidemic.

Michael Schachter, a federal public defender who represented Guan at his initial court appearance, declined to comment. Guan was ordered detained at the hearing.

China Response

Earlier Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry spoke about the case of Juan Tang, another Chinese researcher charged with visa fraud and concealing her military service.

“China’s position on U.S. law enforcement authorities acts to harass or even detain Chinese students is consistent,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing in Beijing. “We will take all necessary measures to protect the legal interests and rights of Chinese citizens.”

Guan lied about how many hard drives and digital storage devices he had when he was first interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last month, according to the affidavit of the FBI agent handling the investigation. Days later, Guan tried to board a flight to China but was prevented by U.S. officials. Several days after that, FBI agents saw Guan wandering around his apartment building and throwing the hard drive into a trash dumpster, according to the agent.

The hard drive was intentionally destroyed and all the data on it had been removed “deliberately and by force,” according to the affidavit. The destroyed hard drive was similar type to one which was in Guan’s laptop computer, the agent said.

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