Federal law enforcement officials revealed this week that they had charged five alleged Chinese spies for carrying out harassment campaigns against U.S. residents who were critical of the communist Chinese government.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said that the crimes were related to efforts by China’s secret police, the Ministry of State Security (MSS), to suppress voices of Chinese nationals who speak out against the government.
Three of the five individuals who were charged have been taken into custody, including Fan “Frank” Liu, Matthew Ziburis, and Shujun Wang. The other two individuals, Qiming Lin and Qiang “Jason” Sun, remain at large.
The DOJ said in a statement:
According to court documents, all the defendants allegedly perpetrated transnational repression schemes to target U.S. residents whose political views and actions are disfavored by the PRC government, such as advocating for democracy in the PRC. In one of these schemes, the co-conspirators sought to interfere with federal elections by allegedly orchestrating a campaign to undermine the U.S. congressional candidacy of a U.S. military veteran who was a leader of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing, PRC. In another of these schemes, three defendants planned to destroy the artwork of a PRC national residing in Los Angeles that was critical of the PRC government, and planted surveillance equipment in the artist’s workplace and car to spy on him from the PRC.
“The Ministry of State Security is more than an intelligence collection agency. It executes the Chinese government’s efforts to limit free speech, attack dissidents, and preserve the power of the Communist Party,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “When it exports those actions overseas, it violates the fundamental sovereignty of the United States and becomes a national security threat. These indictments should serve as a stark warning to the MSS and all foreign intelligence agencies that their efforts at repression will not be tolerated within our borders.”
The statement highlighted some of the following details about the five alleged spies:
- Qiming Lin, 59, of the PRC, is charged with conspiracy to commit interstate harassment, as well as conspiracy and attempt to use of a means of identification in connection with the interstate harassment conspiracy. As alleged, Lin works on behalf of the PRC’s Ministry of State Security (MSS). Beginning in September 2021, Lin hired a private investigator (the PI) in New York to disrupt the campaign of a Brooklyn resident currently running for U.S. Congress (the Victim), including by physically attacking the Victim. The Victim was a student leader of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989, who later escaped to the United States, served in the U.S. military, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. In September 2021, the Victim (then living in Long Island) announced his intention to run for a U.S. congressional seat on Long Island in the November 2022 general election.
- Shujun Wang, 73, of Queens, New York, is charged with 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. As alleged, Wang is a former visiting scholar and author who helped start a pro-democracy organization in Queens that memorializes two former leaders of the Chinese Communist Party who promoted political and economic reforms within the PRC and were eventually forced from power. Since at least 2015, however, Wang has secretly operated at the direction and control of several MSS officers. At the direction of the MSS, Wang used his position and status within Chinese diaspora community in New York City to collect information about prominent activists, dissidents, and human rights leaders to report that information to the PRC government. 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. … In April 2020, one victim about whom Wang reported – the Hong Kong democracy activist identified in the complaint as Hong Kong Dissident #1 – was arrested in Hong Kong and jailed on political charges. In addition, in April 2019, Wang flew from the PRC to Queens carrying a handwritten document with the names and non-public contact information for dozens of other well-known PRC dissidents, including other Hong Kong democracy activists who were subsequently arrested by the PRC in 2019 and 2020. The complaint also alleges that, during an interview in Queens on Aug. 2, 2017, Wang lied to federal law enforcement, falsely denying that he had contacts with PRC officials or the MSS when in fact he had been secretly reporting on U.S. residents to the MSS. Wang later admitted much of his criminal conduct to an undercover member of law enforcement and during a subsequent interview with agents.
- Fan “Frank” Liu, 62, of Long Island, New York, and Matthew Ziburis, 49, of Oyster Bay New York, are charged with conspiring to act as agents of the PRC government. Liu, Ziburis and co-defendant Quiang “Jason” Sun, 40, of the PRC, are charged with conspiring to commit interstate harassment and criminal use of a means of identification. Liu and Sun are charged with conspiring to bribe a federal official in connection with their scheme to obtain the tax returns of a pro-democracy activist residing in the United States. According to the complaint, Liu is president of a purported media company based in New York City, while Ziburis is a former correctional officer for the State of Florida and a bodyguard. Sun is a PRC-based employee of an international technology company. According to the complaint, Liu and Ziburis have been operating under Sun’s direction and control to discredit pro-democracy PRC dissidents residing in the United States – including in New York City, California and Indiana – by spying on them and disseminating negative information about them. For example, at Sun’s direction, Liu paid a private investigator in Queens to bribe an IRS employee to obtain the federal tax returns of one of the dissidents. The private investigator was cooperating with law enforcement, and no Internal Revenue Service employee received a bribe payment. The defendants planned to publicly disclose the dissident’s potential tax liabilities to discredit him. The co-conspirators also made plans to destroy the artwork of a dissident artist whose work is critical of the PRC government, and the artist’s sculpture depicting PRC President Xi Jinping as a coronavirus molecule was demolished in the Spring 2021. Sun has paid both Liu and Ziburis for these efforts to stalk, harass and surveil dissidents residing in the United States. As part of their efforts, the defendants electronically allegedly spied on the pro-democracy activists. For example, posing as an art dealer interested in purchasing the artwork of the dissident artist, Ziburis secretly installed surveillance cameras and GPS devices at a dissident’s workplace and in his car. While in the PRC, Sun watched the live video feed and location data from these devices. The defendants made similar plans to install surveillance equipment at the residences and on the vehicles of two other dissidents. Liu and Ziburis planned to gain access to one such residence by posing as a member of an international sports committee.
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