An alleged Chinese spy collected intelligence through personal and political relationships forged with multiple California Democrats, according to a report by Axios.
Fang Fang—also known as Christine Fang—a Chinese national who came into contact with prominent California Democrats from 2011 to 2015, gathered intelligence on politicians such as Rep. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) and former presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.).
Fang served as a volunteer organizer for Khanna’s unsuccessful 2014 House campaign, attending several events with the Democrat. Fang also helped fundraise for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) in 2013 and has appeared in photos with Rep. Judy Chu (D., Calif.) and former representative Mike Honda (D., Calif.).
Fang’s connections to Swalwell allowed her to place at least one intern in the congressman's office, according to the Axios report. Fang worked as a fundraiser for Swalwell’s congressional campaign, and her Facebook friends list includes Swalwell’s brother and father in addition to Khanna. In Swalwell’s capacity as the lead Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee's CIA subcommittee, he had access to sensitive national security information.
During her time in the Bay Area, Fang kept in close contact with the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, one U.S. intelligence official told Axios. Fang also traveled across the country and engaged in sexual relationships with two unnamed Midwestern mayors.
"The fact that she was traveling around the country" acquainting herself with U.S. politicians "was a big red flag," an intelligence official told Axios. "She was on a mission."
Fang left the country abruptly in 2015, returning to China. The FBI has not yet filed public charges against her, though the bureau conducted a thorough investigation of Fang and her large political network targeting West Coast Democrats. Two American intelligence officials said Fang’s chief handler was likely located in China.
The Trump administration has attempted to crack down on Chinese influence in the United States, limiting Beijing's ability to conduct espionage operations. In July the White House closed the Chinese consulate in Houston, citing concerns about its use as a staging area for China to spy on American technology. The State Department has also pushed for colleges and universities to sever ties with Confucius Institutes, which the Chinese Communist Party uses to recruit and pressure Chinese students to spy for the regime.