US government plans background checks on Chinese students over espionage fears

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The United States government plan to impose tighter visa restrictions and wider background checks on Chinese nationals studying at American universities, over espionage concerns. The news follows reports earlier this year that the administration of US President Donald Trump considered banning all Chinese nationals from studying at American universities. In October of this year, The Financial Times reported that the White House came close to imposing the ban, after it was allegedly proposed by Stephen Miller, speechwriter and senior advisor to Trump. Miller became known as the main architect of Executive Order 13769 —the travel ban imposed on citizens of several countries, most of them predominantly Muslim. According to The Financial Times, Trump was eventually dissuaded from imposing the Chinese student ban by Terry Branstad, US ambassador to China. Continue reading

CIA pulled officers from Beijing after massive cybertheft of US federal personnel records

The CIA pulled a number of officers from the US Embassy in Beijing as a precautionary measure following the massive online theft of personal data of federal employees, current and former US officials said.

The move is a concrete impact of the breach, one of two major hacks into Office of Personnel Management computers that were disclosed earlier this year. Officials have privately attributed the hacks to the Chinese government.

The theft of documents has been characterised by senior US officials as political espionage intended to identify spies and people who might be recruited as spies or blackmailed to provide useful information.

Because the OPM records contained the background checks of State Department employees, officials privately said the Chinese could have compared those records with the list of embassy personnel. Anybody not on that list could be a CIA officer. Continue reading