China Sent Agents to 'Stalk, Harass and Spy On' Dissidents Living in the US, DOJ Says

A Chinese flag hangs outside of a building.A Chinese flag hangs outside of a building.
A Chinese flag hangs outside of a building.Getty

Five people have been charged in New York by the Department of Justice for allegedly working for Chinese secret police against U.S. residents who have been critical of China.

Five men working within the U.S. on behalf of the Chinese secret police stalked, harassed and spied on Chinese dissidents and pro-democracy activists living in the U.S., according to the Department of Justice. All five men are accused of having “allegedly perpetrated transnational repression to target U.S. residents whose political views and actions are disfavored by the [Peoples’ Republic of China] government,” according to the DOJ. 

“The complaints unsealed today reveal the outrageous and dangerous lengths to which the PRC government’s secret police and these defendants have gone to attack the rule of law and freedom in New York City and elsewhere in the United States,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York said in a statement issued by the DOJ.

One of the defendants, Qiming Lin, 59, is accused of attempting to interfere with the political campaign of a Brooklyn resident running for Congress, who had previously been a leader of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 before escaping to the U.S. and becoming an American citizen, according to the DOJ.

The candidate matches the description of Yan Xiong, who is currently running for a New York seat in the House of Representatives, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

Lin allegedly hired a private investigator and asked the investigator to either uncover a scandal or “manufacture something” that would hurt the Brooklyn resident's campaign, offering up suggestions including “see how he goes for prostitution, take some photos,” according to the DOJ, citing an exchange between the two. 

Lin also allegedly sent a voice message to the private investigator, saying, “Aside from violence, what other plans are there? But in the end, violence would be fine, too,” according to the DOJ statement.

Lin has been charged with conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and conspiracy and attempt to use a means of identification in connection with the interstate harassment conspiracy, officials said. He has not yet been arrested.

Another instance of harassment centered around Arthur Liu, the father of two-time U.S. Olympic Figure Skater Alysa Liu. 

Fan “Frank” Liu, Qiang “Jason” Sun and Matthew Ziburis, a former correctional officer for the State of Florida and a body guard, allegedly attempted to access the Liu household by pretending to be a member of an international sports committee, the DOJ statement read.

DOJ did not name the alleged victims of that incident, Arthur Liu told the AP he was the victim in an interview with the Associated Press

“I’m going to continue to enjoy life and live life as I want to live. I’m not going to let this push me down and I’m not going to let them succeed,” Liu said. He said that while he was aware of the threats against him, he did not share the information with his teenage daughter ahead of her travel to Beijing to compete in the most recent Olympic games, where she placed seventh in the women’s event. 

“I had concerns about her safety. The U.S. government did a good job protecting her,” he said.

Alysa, who is 16, did however, tell her father that she had an odd interaction with a stranger while at the Olympic Games, her dad told the AP. While in China, she said she was followed by a stranger after a free skate event, who asked her to go to his apartment, the AP reported. 

Fan "Frank" Liu, Sun and Ziburis, are also separately accused of installing surveillance cameras and GPS devices in the work and car of an artist while pretending to be an interested buyer, and interviewing dissidents for a fake media outlet meant to be used in Chinese propaganda materials

Ziburis was arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and criminal use of a means of identification, authorities said. He was released on $500,000 bond, according to the AP.

Fan "Frank" Liu was also arrested on charges to bribe a federal official in connection with their scheme to obtain the tax returns of a pro-democracy activist residing in the United Stated, according to the DOJ statement. He denied the allegations through a Chinese interpreter, and his release was set at $1 million bond.

Sun remains at large, according to the DOJ statement.

Shunjun Wang, 73, was also arrested on charges of acting as an agent of the PRC government, criminal use of means of identification and making materially false statements in connection with his participation in a transnational repression scheme orchestrated by the MSS, according to the DOJ statement.

In a separate case, Wang is accused by the DOJ of leveraging his status in the overseas Chinese community to collect and report information about outspoken dissidents based in New York City, including activists representing the interests of those in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tibet, as well as the Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia. 

Wang’s April 2020 reporting to Chinese government officials led to the arrest of a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong on political charges, the DOJ said. 

Wang was arrested and charged with acting as an agent of the Peoples’ Republic of China government, the DOJ statement read. He was released on $300,000 bond, according to the WSJ.

Chinese officials said they were “not aware of the specifics” surrounding the allegations, and said they are “firmly opposed to the U.S. slandering by making an issue of this out of thin air," according to the AP.

“China always asks Chinese citizens to abide by the laws and regulations of host countries, and we would never ask our citizens to engage in activities that violate local laws. The so-called transnational harassment schemes are just trumped up,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told AP reporters Thursday.

Lawyers for the three defendants did not respond to the Wall Street Journal’s request for comment.

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