Chinese Man Faces Year in Jail for Photographing Military Buildings in Key West

Carlos Miller

The man said he had no idea he was breaking the law by entering the base that was not gated. He remains incarcerated.

There was no gate keeping a Chinese man from entering a military base in Key West where he began taking photos of buildings last September.

But the military said Zhao Qianli should have heeded the sign that said "restricted area" before making his way around a fence on the beach that can be bypassed by walking or swimming," the Miami Herald reports.

According to the FBI criminal complaint, witnesses saw Zhao walking along the secure fence line of the Joint Interagency Task Force South at Naval Air Station Key West at Truman Annex at about 2:40 p.m. Sept. 26. He walked around the fence and entered the facility from the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.

The task force monitors drug traffickers who use the waters around Key West.

There is no gate at the beach, simply a long fence with signs that say “Restricted Area.,” which anyone could swim or walk around to gain access to the Navy property.

But the Navy says there is plenty of security at the fence.

“These security measures that we have in place, which are random, they work obviously because we caught the guy,” said Trice Denny, spokeswoman for Naval Air Station Key West.

“The fence line Zhao Qianli circumvented had numerous warnings that noted the fenced facility was a “military installation” and “Restricted Area’‘ warning signs posted on the beach,” the complaint reads.

Now Qianli, 20, said he had gotten lost and meant no harm, telling cops in broken English that he was only a "dishwasher from New Jersey."

And it does not appear as if he was trying to be discrete about entering the base at 2:40 p.m. on September 26, openly taking photos with a Canon EOS as well as Motorola cell phone.

The Miami Herald states that he was sentenced to 60 days in jail for trespassing, but that the feds last week charged with federal charges of "photographing defense installations and entering military, naval or Coast Guard property." He remains in federal custody on $250,000 bond.

He faces up to a year in jail for the illegal photography and six months for the trespassing, even though he apparently already served 60 days on a state trespassing charge.

Key West police say that although Qianli had entered the country legally, his visa had expired a week before he was arrested in September.

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

He must be some fool who think he can sell those photos to his government. He probably figured he would just be deported if he got caught, so there wasn't much at stake.

War on Photography