GOP Senators Launch Bill to Bar Chinese Military Scientists from Entering US

June 18, 2021 Updated: June 19, 2021

Seven Republican senators have reintroduced legislation aiming to bar Chinese military scientists from entering or remaining in the United States.

The bill (pdf), called the “People’s Liberation Army Visa Security Act,” intends to prohibit the issuance of U.S. student or research visas to individuals employed or sponsored by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“We must ensure that individuals linked to the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army are not able to obtain research and student visas, which enable the theft of American technology,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said in a June 17 statement. “It is in our national security interest to ensure the CCP isn’t taking advantage of our open system to steal American intellectual property.”

Besides seeking to impose a ban on new visas for individuals tied to the Chinese military, the legislation also calls on the Secretary of State to revoke any existing student or research visas of any people employed, funded, or otherwise sponsored by the PLA.

“Allowing members of the People’s Liberation Army unfettered access to research visas is an open invitation to steal American research, ingenuity, and intellectual property,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), in a statement. “The United States shouldn’t be arming our greatest adversary.”

The other co-sponsors of the bill are Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

The move comes amid a flurry of legislative activity that seeks to prevent individuals with links to the CCP from exploiting vulnerabilities to the detriment of U.S. national security and interests.

This week, Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) introduced legislation that would block foreign adversaries from buying land near U.S. military bases. Called the Military Perimeter Transparency Act (pdf), the bill would direct the secretary of defense to produce regular reports on land purchases or occupancy around U.S. military facilities by foreign adversaries.

Green’s bill offers a definition of “foreign adversaries” pursuant to the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act (pdf).

“The term ‘foreign adversary’ means any foreign government or foreign nongovernment person engaged in a long-term pattern or serious instances of conduct significantly adverse to the national security of the United States or security and safety of United States persons,” states the act, which was passed in February 2020 to safeguard U.S. communications systems from threats posed by foreign suppliers, such as Huawei and ZTE.

Earlier, in April, a group of senators reintroduced a bipartisan bill that would impose harsh penalties on companies and individuals found guilty of stealing U.S. intellectual property, with the lawmakers singling out China for its “routine” theft of U.S. trade secrets.

Under the Trump administration, the State Department revised its policy to reduce the maximum permitted duration of stay in the United States for CCP members and their immediate families, with an official saying at the time that the measure’s aim was to “protect our nation from the CCP’s malign influence.”

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM