While most scientists sent abroad by the PLA appear to be open about which institutions they come from, this report has identified two dozen new cases of PLA scientists travelling abroad using cover to obscure their military affiliations. In at least 17 of these cases, PLA scientists used cover to travel to Australia. These scientists use various kinds of cover, ranging from the use of misleading historical names for their institutions to the use of names of non-existent institutions.
Features of deception by the PLA
An article from 2002 on the website of a Chinese overseas study agency offers insights into the use of cover. In response to a question asking whether having graduated from a military institution would affect one’s ability to get an overseas visa, the company responded:
Many military colleges and military units externally have common names (民间称呼) that don’t reveal their military characteristics. NUDT, for example, is externally known as Changsha Institute of Technology. This is the best way [to avoid having your visa application rejected].56
The Changsha Institute of Technology was a PLA institution subsumed by NUDT in 1975.57 While the quote above doesn’t come from an official source, it at least indicates how these unsophisticated but nonetheless effective covers are understood as tools for hiding one’s military background.