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Foreign Policy
23 mins | May 13, 2020

Were they lost students or inept spies for China?

Two roommates travelling in Florida found themselves caught in the teeth of espionage fears. Wang Yuhao and Zhang Jielun were painted by the US media as spies, embodying "a theory of Chinese espionage where multiple small bits of sensitive information are collected by everyone from students to tourists." Now sitting in a Florida penitentiary waiting to be deported, these two men may have been victims of misunderstanding, and a now more common racial stereotype, in the US. Eric Fish investigates in Foreign Policy. "Cedric Leighton, a military analyst and former intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force, said that there is an ongoing pattern of Chinese espionage that includes using temporary, nonprofessional actors such as students to carry out relatively unsophisticated operations, and that the Naval Air Station Key West is a likely target for Chinese espionage. But he also notes that it’s certainly possible Wang and Zhang “took a proverbial wrong turn.”

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