An alleged Chinese spy cultivated ties to Rep. Tom Suozzi (D., N.Y.) and gave maximum donations to his campaign last year.
Suozzi, who is running for governor of New York, met multiple times with Fan "Frank" Liu, the founder of an organization called the World Harmony Foundation. Federal prosecutors on Wednesday accused Liu of spying on three pro-democracy activists as part of a "transnational repression scheme" to silence critics of the Chinese Communist Party.
Suozzi is not referenced in the complaint against Liu, and the two do not appear to have particularly strong ties. But their interactions could raise concerns that Liu cozied up to the congressman on behalf of the Chinese government. Liu touted his interactions with Suozzi on his organization's website, suggesting he may have used the meetings to provide him with an air of legitimacy.
Chinese spies have targeted other Democratic House members. Fang Fang, an alleged agent of China's domestic spy service, developed a years-long relationship with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) and helped raise money for his campaign in 2014. The FBI warned Swalwell about Fang in 2015 after he joined the House Intelligence Committee. Suozzi serves on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which monitors human rights abuses in the nation. The Chinese government sanctioned members of the commission in 2020 over their investigations of China's abuse of Uyghurs.
Liu, who also operates a media company called Congress Web TV, met Suozzi at three events since 2020. Suozzi presented Liu with an award at an event in August 2021. Liu and his daughter attended a fundraiser for Suozzi on Sept. 30, 2021, where Suozzi was photographed giving an award to the younger Liu. Liu gave maximum campaign donations for Suozzi's primary and general election campaign the same day, according to Federal Election Commission records. The World Harmony Foundation posted another video of Liu presenting a "Distinguished Harmony Award" to Suozzi at one of his campaign events earlier this month.
Liu was actively working for the Chinese government during this period. According to prosecutors, he began working with a Florida-based private investigator named Matthew Ziburis in January 2021 to stalk and spy on three anti-CCP dissidents. Liu received orders from Qiang Sun, an executive at a Chinese technology company linked to the government.
Liu and Ziburis allegedly tried to bribe an IRS employee for the tax returns of an artist, Chen Weiming, who created a sculpture of Chinese president Xi Jinping as a coronavirus molecule. They also attached surveillance equipment to Chen's vehicle. Chen's sculpture, which was placed in the Mojave Desert, was destroyed by arsonists in July 2021.
Liu and Ziburis tracked two other CCP critics, one in Indiana and another in the San Francisco area. The latter appears to be Arthur Liu, an attorney whose daughter competed for Team USA at the Beijing Olympics.
Fan Liu received more than $3 million in payments from a Hong Kong-based bank account, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors announced charges on Wednesday against another Chinese operative accused of spying on a U.S. House candidate in New York who helped organize the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Qiming Lin, a former officer in China's domestic spy agency, is accused of hiring a private investigator to manufacture a sex scandal against the candidate, identified as Xiong Yan. Yan is running as a Democrat for a seat on Long Island.
Suozzi's office did not respond to a request for comment. He is running against Gov. Kathy Hochul (D., N.Y.). The Washington Free Beacon reported that Hochul recently gave the keynote speech for the China General Chamber of Commerce, a New York-based trade group funded by Chinese companies under sanctions.