BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Chinese national and aerospace engineering student at the University at Buffalo was arrested and charged with visa fraud for allegedly leaving out his educational and professional ties to a university associated with the military wing of the Chinese Communist Party of his visa application, U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross’s office announced Thursday.

Jiaxuemo Zhang, 28, of Amherst, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted. According to authorities, Zhang was granted an F-1 non-immigrant visa by the U.S. in 2021, but on his application he “omitted material information about [his] education history and research activity in China.”

While Zhang stated on his application that he would be studying aerospace engineering at UB. What he did not disclose was that he had studied and conducted research at China’s Beihang University, which, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, “is known to conduct research on behalf of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army,” the armed wing of the CCP and China’s primary military force.

Beihang University, previously known as the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, receives funding from the China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, has a history of working on behalf of the Chinese military. It houses nine major defense laboratories and is one of seven universities known as the nation’s “Seven Sons of National Defense” due to their close research relationships and financial ties to the military.

A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office said that at Beihang, Zhang was mentored by Chongwen Jiang, the deputy director of the military research office.

Zhang appeared before a magistrate judge and was released on conditions.

Justin McMullen is a Western New York native who joined the News 4 team in 2023. You can read more of his work here.