A Chinese national has been arrested in Chicago for alleged spying, accused of helping Beijing recruit US engineers and scientists.
Ji Chaoqun was apprehended in Chicago, charged with acting as an illegal foreign agent in the US, according the US attorney’s office.
“By collecting this information for an arm of the Chinese government while in the United States, Ji knowingly and unlawfully acted as an agent of a foreign power,” FBI agent Andrew McKay wrote in an affidavit.
Mr Ji, 27, came to the US on a student visa in 2013 to study electrical engineering and enlisted in the army reserves in 2016.
He was allegedly tasked with providing Chinese intelligence with information about on eight American citizens, some of whom were US defence contractors, for recruitment.
All eight of the people allegedly researched were naturalised American citizens born either in China or Taiwan.
They either currently worked or recently retired from the science and technology industry.
According to a criminal complaint filed in a Chicago court, Mr Ji has been accused of working for an unnamed high-ranking intelligence officer.
During his first court appearance, Mr Ji requested that the Chinese consulate be informed of his arrest.
He told the judge that he understood his rights.
US magistrate judge Michael Masonthe ordered that he remain in custody.
Mr Ji admitted to his work after one of his handlers was arrested after meeting with US undercover agents in April and May, which included collecting background checks, according to an affidavit filed in federal court by an FBI investigator.
“They just wanted me to purchase some documents on their behalf,” he allegedly told the agents.
“Their reason was just because it was inconvenient for them to make payments from China.”
Mr Ji’s arrest came as the US and China’s involvement in a “trade war” continues and the US’s counter intelligence increases efforts to fight Chinese espionage.
Mr Ji faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.