The Justice Department on Wednesday accused five alleged agents of the Chinese government of spying on U.S.-based critics of the Chinese Communist Party, including a congressional candidate and the father of an American Olympian.
Prosecutors accused Qiming Lin, a former officer in China's domestic spy bureau, of attempting to hire a private investigator to manufacture a sex scandal against an unnamed House candidate in New York. They also accused Shujun Wang, the head of a pro-democracy organization in Queens, of using the group to spy on activists and provide intelligence to the Chinese government. Three other operatives are accused of trying to bribe a federal official to obtain the tax returns of a pro-democracy dissident.
Prosecutors allege that the defendants are part of a "transnational repression scheme" to silence critics of the Chinese government. The communist regime has increasingly used covert agents to stalk and harass dissidents in the United States. The Justice Department charged eight Chinese nationals in 2020 with stalking and harassing Chinese dissidents in New York as part of Operation Fox Hunt, the Chinese Communist Party initiative to track dissenters living in the West. Also in 2020, prosecutors charged a New York City police officer with spying on Tibetan nationalist groups on behalf of the Chinese government.
According to the Justice Department, Lin hired a private investigator in New York to "undermine the candidacy" of a House candidate on Long Island. The candidate is not identified in court filings, but details suggest it is Xiong Yan, a naturalized U.S. citizen who helped organize the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
Lin asked the private investigator to set the candidate up with a prostitute in order to manufacture a sex scandal, prosecutors allege.
"You go find a girl for him, see if he would take the bait," Lin wrote.
Lin also suggested that the private investigator could physically harm the candidate in order to remove him from the campaign trail.
"But in the end, violence would be fine too," Lin allegedly wrote. He suggested that the investigator "beat him until he cannot run for election" or orchestrate a car accident.
Prosecutors allege that Shujun Wang, the founder of the pro-democracy organization, secretly collected information about Tibetan and Uyghur activists in New York City on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of State Security.
"While ostensibly lending a sympathetic ear, Wang reported on statements activists made in confidence to him, including on their views on democracy in the PRC, as well as planned speeches, writings, and demonstrations against the Chinese Communist Party," the Justice Department alleges.
Prosecutors allege that one of Wang's targets, a Hong Kong democracy activist, was arrested and jailed in Hong Kong in April 2020.
The Justice Department also announced charges against Fan Liu, Matthew Ziburis, and Qiang Sun, who are accused of attempting to bribe government officials for tax returns on pro-democracy activists. Liu operates several media organizations in the United States, as well as an organization called the World Harmony Foundation. Liu allegedly worked with Ziburis, a former bodyguard, to surveil an activist in the New York area.
Arthur Liu, the father of Team USA figure skater Ilysa Liu, was one target of the repression scheme, according to reports. The elder Liu took part in the Tiananmen Square protests and has been a critic of the Chinese government since settling in the United States.