Yanqing Ye

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Vetting Year
Time from U.S. Entry to Discovery
1 year,5 months
National Security Crime Type
Nationality of Perpetrator
Immigration Status Type
Agency Responsible for Failure
State Department for J-1
Opportunities Missed
Nation(s) Vetting Occurred
Arresting Agency
Criminal Charges
Visa fraud, making false statements, acting as a foreign agent, and conspiracy
Case Outcome
At-large; prosecution pending.
Case Summary

Chinese national Yanqing Ye applied for a J-1 cultural exchange visa in August 2017 and had one a month later when she entered the United States and joined Boston University’s Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Biomedical Engineering. On the application, Ye identified herself as a “student” and indicated that she had never been a member of any military.

But according to a later 2019 federal indictment stemming from an FBI counter-espionage investigation, Ye was a lieutenant of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and active with China’s top military academy, the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), which is directed by the Chinese Community Party of which Ye also was a member.

While ostensibly “studying” at Boston University from October 2017 to April 2019, Ye worked at the direction of PLA officers assessing U.S. military websites and sending U.S. documents and information back to China. The FBI later found that, at the direction of one NUDT professor, who was a PLA colonel, Ye had accessed U.S. military websites, researched U.S. military projects, and compiled information for the PLA on two U.S. scientists with expertise in robotics and computer science. Furthermore, a review of a WeChat conversation revealed that Ye and the other PLA official from NUDT were collaborating on a research paper about a risk assessment model designed to decipher data for military applications.

American State Department officers responsible for her security vetting background check in August 2017, had they mounted a robust investigation, likely would have found evidence of her active-duty military service and association with key, high-ranking NUDT professors, perhaps in publicly available information on the internet about the joint research paper at NUDT, or a check of U.S. intelligence sources about Chinese military personnel, or merely during more penetrating interviews with Ye like one the FBI conducted with her.

In one such FBI interview at Logan International Airport, Ye admitted she held the rank of lieutenant in the PLA and that she was a member of the CCP. Ye apparently was a fugitive as of March 2023. The FBI was unable to arrest Ye after she was indicted for acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, visa fraud, false statements, and conspiracy. The FBI posted a Wanted poster for Ye based on an unfulfilled January 2020 arrest warrant.