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Media captionThe men were recaptured by acting suspiciously at the Chinese consulate in Houston on Tuesday

A Chinese scientist suspected of visa fraud and hiding ties to the military has fled to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, the United States says.

Prosecutors say the case is part of a Chinese program to send undercover army scientists to the United States.

The Trump administration ordered the closure of the Chinese mission in Houston on Wednesday, saying it was involved in intellectual property theft.

China has condemned the moves against its scientists and consulates in the United States.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused the administration of using excuses to limit, harass or repress Chinese scholars in the country.

Following the discussion on the Houston consulate, President Donald Trump has threatened to close other Chinese missions.

In recent months, he has repeatedly clashed with Beijing on trade, the coronavirus pandemic and the Chinese imposition of a controversial new security law in Hong Kong.

What are the allegations about the San Francisco mission?

Court documents from a San Francisco federal court say the defendant, named Juan Tang, was a biology researcher at the University of California, Davis.

According to documents, during an interview with FBI agents last month he said he had not served in the Chinese army.

However, the document states that an open source investigation has uncovered photos of her wearing a military uniform and a search of her home has found further evidence of her affiliation with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“At some point following Tang’s research and interview on June 20, 2020, Tang went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, where the FBI ascertains that she has remained,” he said., reported for the first time by the Axios news site, reads.

He adds: “As the Tang case shows, the Chinese consulate in San Francisco offers a potential safe haven for a PLA official who is willing to avoid prosecution in the United States.”

Prosecutors say this is not an isolated case but “appears to be part of a PLA-led program” to send military scientists to the United States under false pretenses.

The document also highlights the cases of two other researchers arrested in California in recent weeks for lying about their alleged ties to the military.

What is happening to Chinese consulates?

The Houston consulate was investigated on Tuesday, when people facing the building’s courtyard noticed several burning bins.

The footage showed people throwing what appeared to be paper into the bins.

Emergency services have been called to the building but Houston police say they have not been granted access.

On Wednesday, the administration gave China 72 hours to close the consulate “to protect American intellectual property and American private information.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “We are drawing clear expectations of how the Chinese Communist Party will behave. And when they don’t, we will take action to protect the American people, protect … our national security, and also protect the our economy and work. ”

The consulate is one of five in the United States, not to mention the embassy in Washington. China has described the closure as a “political provocation”.

What is fueling tensions between China and the United States?

There are currently a number of flash points between Beijing and Washington. Some of the most serious are:

  • Coronavirus: President Trump repeatedly referred to Covid-19, the first cases of which were reported to Wuhan in late 2019 as a “Chinese virus”. He also said it comes from a Chinese laboratory, despite the fact that his own intelligence officials say it “was not created by man or genetically modified.” In response, Chinese officials suggested, without proof, that Covid-19 could have originated in the United States
  • BusinessTrump has long accused China of unfair trading practices and intellectual property theft, but in Beijing there is a feeling that the United States is trying to curb its rise as a global economic power. The U.S. and China have waged a tit-to-tat tariff war since 2018 following the controversy
  • Hong Kong: The Chinese imposition of a new national security law in Hong Kong in June led the United States to lift the region’s preferential economic treatment. Trump also signed a law to impose sanctions on officials who cracked down on rights. Beijing has accused the United States of “serious interference” in its internal affairs, promising that it will take revenge

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