For the first time in 30 years, the United States has expelled Chinese diplomats suspected of being spies.
Multiple people with knowledge of the expulsions spoke to the New York Times, saying that two Chinese Embassy officials and their wives drove onto a “sensitive” military installation near Norfolk, Virginia, in September and led military police on a chase before being blocked by fire trucks.
The Chinese officials and their wives drove up to a checkpoint for entry to the base, said people briefed on the episode. A guard, realizing that they did not have permission to enter, told them to go through the gate, turn around and exit the base, which is common procedure in such situations.
But the Chinese officials instead continued on to the base, according to those familiar with the incident. After the fire trucks blocked them, the Chinese officials indicated that they had not understood the guard’s English instructions, and had simply gotten lost, according to people briefed on the matter.
American officials said they were skeptical that the intruders made an innocent error and dismissed the idea that their English was insufficient to understand the initial order to leave.
Having lived near Fort Bragg, NC, home of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command, and having spent a lot of time around the Norfolk/Newport News/Virginia Beach area, I can say that their story of “being lost” is totally incredulous.
It is not clear what they were trying to do on the base, but some American officials said they believed it was to test the security at the installation, according to a person briefed on the matter. Had the Chinese officials made it onto the base without being stopped, the embassy could have dispatched a more senior intelligence officer to enter the base, the theory goes.
Special Operations forces are located in the area in which the Chinese officials were stopped, and several nearby bases are home to various special ops teams, including SEAL Team Six.
Weeks after the incursion, the United States announced strengthened restrictions for Chinese diplomats, including a requirement that the State Department be notified before diplomats hold any meetings with state or local officials, or with educational or research institutions.
Of course, Chinese officials have complained about the expulsion, the Times reports.
The, “I just got lost” excuse has been tried by multiple Chinese citizens caught photographing military installations or even sneaking onto farms to steal seeds.
This year, a Chinese student was sentenced to a year in prison for photographing an American defense intelligence installation near Key West, Fla., in September 2018. The student, Zhao Qianli, walked to where the fence circling the base ended at the ocean, then stepped around the fence and onto the beach. From there, he walked onto the base and took photographs, including of an area with satellite dishes and antennae.
When he was arrested, Mr. Zhao spoke in broken English and, like the officials stopped on the Virginia base, claimed he was lost.
Chinese citizens have been caught not just wandering on to government installations but also improperly entering university laboratories and even crossing farmland to pilfer specially bred seeds.
We can’t forget that U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) unknowingly (allegedly) employed a Chinese spy for decades, a man who served as her driver and her liaison to the Chinese-American community in San Francisco.