Former Army reservist convicted of spying for China

The 31-year-old Chinese national was acquitted on two counts of wire fraud.

Updated: September 28, 2022 - 1:15pm

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A former U.S. Army reservist and Chinese national has been convicted of spying for the Chinese government in reportedly a  larger Beijing intelligence operation to recruit informants.

Ji Chaoqun, 31, of Chicago, was found guilty of lying to the U.S. Army and acting as an agent of the People’s Republic of China without notifying the United States, the Justice Department said Tuesday. Ji was acquitted on two counts of wire fraud. 

Ji enlisted in the reserves in 2016 through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, which is used to recruit non-citizens with critical skills such as physicians and those who can speak certain languages. At the time, Ji falsely said he had not contacted a foreign government within the previous seven years.

The Chinese government had tasked Ji with providing biographical information about certain people including Chinese nationals working as engineers and scientists in the United States for defense contractors, to possibly recruit them.

He faces up to 10 years in prison for spying and up to five years for lying.

South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based English paper owned by the Chinese Communist Party-linked Alibaba group, reported that Ji's spying is part of a larger "fish-at-the-bottom-of-the-ocean" operation, in which average recruits are pushed into more useful positions by Beijing.