The Trump administration is planning to expel several thousand Chinese graduate students and researchers with ties to Chinese universities affiliated with that country’s military, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
The proposed expulsion would affect roughly 3,000 individuals, a small percentage of the 360,000 Chinese students currently in the U.S. American institutions may push back against the order because Chinese students generally pay full tuition for their degrees.
U.S. officials told the Times that there was no direct evidence of wrongdoing on the part of students who would lose their visas. However, the officials said that students at Chinese universities with ties to the People’s Liberation Army are sometimes selected to go abroad and gather information for the Chinese government. Chinese universities tied to the military include the Beijing Institute of Technology, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and numerous others.
U.S. intelligence agencies have warned that China is using academic researchers in the U.S. for espionage and intellectual property theft. In early April, the Justice Department urged federal prosecutors to focus on cases of suspected intellectual property theft by China.
There have been various cases of researchers and professors charged in the U.S. for failing to disclose ties to Chinese institutions. In one instance in mid-May, FBI agents arrested University of Arkansas-Fayetteville electrical engineering professor Simon Saw-Teong Ang on suspicion of hiding funding he had received from the Chinese government. Ang had been a professor at the university since 1988, and had conducted research projects for NASA.