by Chris Lefkow

US prosecutors accused China on Wednesday of spying on pro-democracy activists in the United States and seeking to harass and intimidate a former Tiananmen Square dissident who is running for Congress.

Attorney Breon Peace, who announced the filing of charges against five men in three cases, said they “involve campaigns to silence, harass, discredit and spy on US residents for simply exercising their freedom of speech.” 

US Capitol Hill Washington DC Congress Senate
US Capitol. Photo: Arend via Flickr.

“The United States will not tolerate blatantly illegal actions that target US residents, on US soil, and undermine our treasured American values and rights,” Peace said.

Lin Qiming, 59, an agent with China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), was accused in a criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York of conspiracy to harass a congressional candidate.

The candidate was not identified in the complaint but his profile fits that of Yan Xiong, a former student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests who is seeking a seat in the US House of Representatives.

Yan, a former Beijing University Law School graduate student, fled to the United States from China in 1992 and served in the US Army as a chaplain. He announced in September that he was seeking the Democratic Party nomination for a seat in Congress from Long Island, New York.

Beijing brushed off the allegations on Thursday, saying it “firmly opposes the US using this issue to slander and smear China.”

“China always requires its citizens to abide by the laws and regulations of their host country,” said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. “We have never and will never demand that they engage in activities that violate local laws.”

Zhao Lijian
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Zhao Lijian. File photo: China MFA.

According to the complaint, Lin, who remains at large and is the subject of an arrest warrant, contacted a private investigator in the United States seeking information about Yan.

“We don’t want him to be elected,” Lin allegedly told the private investigator.

Lin suggested that the private investigator could help manufacture a scandal with a prostitute, a beating or even a car accident to prevent Yan from seeking office.

“Whatever price is fine. As long as you can do it,” Lin allegedly told the private investigator, who ended up cooperating with authorities.

Collected information on dissidents

In the second case, prosecutors accused Shujun Wang, 73, a prominent Chinese-born academic living in Queens, New York, of acting as an agent of the Chinese government.

Wang, who was arrested Wednesday and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, founded a pro-democracy organization but since at least 2015 he has “secretly operated at the direction and control of several MSS officers,” prosecutors said.

“Wang used his position and status within the Chinese diaspora community in New York City to collect information about prominent activists, dissidents, and human rights leaders” for the Chinese government, prosecutors said.

US vs. China Flag
Photo: via Flickr.

His victims included individuals and groups in the United States but also Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, advocates for Taiwan independence, and Uyghur and Tibetan activists, both in the United States and abroad, they said.

In the third case, Fan “Frank” Liu, 62, of New York, Matthew Ziburis, 49, of New York, and Qiang “Jason” Sun, 40, of China, are charged with conspiring to act as agents of the Chinese government.

Liu and Ziburis were accused of acting at the direction of Sun to discredit pro-democracy activists living in the United States.

The schemes allegedly included seeking to obtain the tax returns of a dissident from an Internal Revenue Service employee.

Another plot allegedly included plans to destroy a sculpture by a dissident artist that depicted Chinese President Xi Jinping as a coronavirus.

“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,” prosecutors said.

Liu, who runs a media company based in New York, and Ziburis, a former bodyguard and correctional officer in Florida, were arrested on Tuesday while Sun remains at large.

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