Two more Chinese nationals were arrested over the weekend for illegally entering a military facility in Key West.
It’s not like you’re going to mistake Naval Air Station Key West for… oh, Duvall Street or Ernest Hemingway’s home, or some other public tourist attraction in Florida. But then again, you’re not a “student” from China.
A total of four students have now been arrested for wandering onto the base and snapping cellphone pictures. No word on whether they included selfies.
The most recent pair, Yuhao Wang and Jielun Zhang, both 24, were enrolled at the University of Michigan.
According to the Miami Herald, the two were arrested after they approached the guard station at Sigsbee Annex in the Naval Air Station, were told to turn around and instead drove onto the restricted property at 8:30 a.m. After a half hour, U.S. Navy Security Forces located the students in their blue Hyundai car and found they were carrying cellphones and a Nikon camera.
“U.S. Navy Security Forces obtained consent to look at the devices and observed photographs taken on the Sigsbee Annex property, including U.S. military structures on Fleming Key,” according to an FBI complaint affidavit.
After they were stopped, both acknowledged they were told by a guard at the Sigsbee Annex gate to make a U-turn and leave the area.
They had an initial court appearance on Monday, and have bail hearings scheduled for Friday.
Just a few weeks ago, on the day after Christmas, 27-year old Lyuyou Liao skipped early shopping at the Apple store and instead was spotted before 7:00 am walking around a perimeter fence and entering the military facility from the rocks along the waterfront at Truman Annex.
The U.S. Military Police saw him taking photos on his phone and asked to see the pictures, which included shots of the Truman Annex. Liao told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service he was trying to take photographs of the sunrise.
And in September of 2018, 20-year-old Zhao Qianli, who claimed to be a music student, was caught by Key West police when he trespassed onto the same base. Photos and videos on his cellphone and digital camera included images of government buildings and a Defense Department antenna on the base.
Qianli said he somehow got lost on the tourist trail and just simply didn’t realize it was a military base. He’s currently serving a one-year prison sentence, the maximum for his case, by the way.
So what is happening on the Key West naval base that Chinese people in particular seem to find so fascinating?
Task and Purpose says, according to NAS Key West's website, the base is home to a sophisticated Tactical Combat Training System, which tracks and records aerial maneuvers. It also hosts Joint Interagency Task Force South and the U.S. Army Special Forces Underwater Training School.
The base is also "the state-of-the-art facility for combat fighter aircraft of all military services, provides world-class pierside support to U.S. and foreign naval vessels, and is the premier training center for surface and subsurface military operations," according to the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.
Kind of a weird coincidence for these guys to show up and take pictures. They’re all just a little too far south to confuse all that technology with Star Wars: Galaxy Edge in Disneyworld, dontcha think?