Ji Chaoqun, a 27-year-old student of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, was arrested on September 25 for reportedly spying on behalf of his home country, China.
Chaoqun was studying at the Illinois Institute and was also enlisted in the US Army Reserves. He had joined the military under a program that allows foreign nationals to be recruited when they have skills that are vital to the national interest. On September 21st, a 17-page criminal complaint was levied against Chaoquan for allegedly acting as an agent of a foreign power.
According to the complaint, Chaoqun was tasked with recruiting various engineers and scientists as Chinese spies. Many of the individuals targeted by Chaoqun were working for U.S. defense contractors. The U.S. Department of Justice believes Chaoqun was working under the orders of a “high-level intelligence officer” stationed at the Ministry of State Security in China. This Ministry is considered the country’s best and largest espionage agency.
If convicted of acting as an illegal foreign agent, Chaoqun could potentially spend the next 10 years in prison. Both the United States and China routinely recruit spies or conduct counter espionage operations. According to a New York Times article, the Army is in the process of expelling foreign nationals who were recruited under the military program.
On September 26, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, was asked about Chaoqun’s arrest. He explained he was “unaware of the situation.” Despite this, political tensions between the U.S. and China have been heating up. The two competing countries have recently escalated a trade war. Back in June, Kevin Mallory, a CIA case officer, was convicted of transmitting confidential documents to Chinese spies. During the court proceedings, prosecutors warned this was “no isolated incident.” The ominous warning appears to be playing out with this recent arrest.