Three Chinese nationals have received prison sentences for taking photos of a restricted area at an American naval base in Key West, Florida, according to a news release by the US Attorney's Office of the South District of Florida, cited by Fox News.
Lyuyou Liao, 27, was sentenced on 5 June to 12 months in prison after pleading guilty to entering the Naval Air Station Key West on 26 December 2019 to illegally take photos and videos of the Truman Annex section of the facility.
A day earlier, in a separate case, Jielun Zhang, 25, and Yuhao Wang, 24, were each sentenced to a year and nine months in prison for illegally gaining access to the same installation as Liao on 4 January, and taking photos of infrastructure in Sigbsbee Park and the Trumbo Point Annexes.
The three Chinese nationals will each be subject to one year of probation.
According to cited court documents, Liao was arrested on 26 December Liao after he had circumvented a security fence with "numerous warnings posted" on it, and was spotted walking around Naval Air Station Key West and taking photos with his cellphone.
The man proceeded to take the footage despite being warned by witnesses that he was trespassing in a restricted area known as the Truman Annex.
The Chinese national subsequently told officials that he reads and understands English better than he can speak it.
In an attempt to explain his actions, Liao stated he had been trying to take photos of the sunrise when approached by US military police.
The man had handed his cellphone to the men, where they saw images taken of the Truman Annex at the base and other government buildings in the vicinity, say court documents.
On the 4 January the two other men, Jielun Zhang and Yuhao Wang, drove up to the guard station at the Sigsbee Annex at the Naval Air Station in Key West in a blue Hyundai.
As the men could not provide a military identification, they were instructed by a navy security officer to exit the facility, however, Jielun and Yuhaog instead remained at the site for some 30 minutes, according to the filed complaint.
After obtaining permission to check the men’s cellphones and camera, Navy security officers discovered photos of the Sigsbee Annex property, including US military structures on Fleming Key.
In 2019, in a similar incident, a Chinese national, Zhao Qianli, whose attorney insisted he was a tourist who had lost his way, was sentenced to one year in prison after admitting to taking photos at the Key West naval base.
The incidents described in the court documents took place shortly after a report in The New York Times claimed that two Chinese Embassy officials were allegedly "secretly expelled" by US authorities in December 2019 for infiltrating a "sensitive" military base near Norfolk, Virginia.
According to the outlet, citing sources with knowledge of the expulsions, US authorities were led to believe "at least one of the Chinese officials, who were with their wives, was an intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover."