One American and four Chinese intelligence officers have been charged with spying and conspiring to silence critics of the Chinese government on American soil.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed an indictment charging one U.S. and four Chinese citizens with conspiracy and espionage, and transnational repression charges.
Spying On American Soil
On May 18, the Justice Department charged and identified the American asset and four Chinese intelligence officers.
According to the Department of Justice, the five men participated in an espionage and transnational repression program in the U.S. and abroad.
The five men are: Wang Shujun, of Queens, New York; Feng He, also known as “Boss He,” of Guangdong; Jie Ji, of Qingdao; Ming Li, also known as “Elder Tang and Little Li,” of Guangdong; and Keqing Lu, also known as “Boss Lu,” of Qingdao.
Wang, the American citizen, wasn’t an intelligence officer but rather an asset that was working with the four Chinese intelligence officers.
“We will not tolerate efforts by the PRC or any authoritarian government to export repressive measures to our country,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen, who is assigned to the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a press statement.
“These charges demonstrate the Justice Department’s unwavering commitment to hold accountable all those who violate our laws in seeking to suppress dissenting voices within the United States and to prevent our residents from exercising their lawful rights,” Olsen added.
Out of the five individuals, only Wang has been arrested. The four Chinese intelligence officers remain at large—most likely safe in China.
“As alleged, Wang acted as a covert intelligence asset in his own community, spying on and reporting sensitive information on prominent pro-democracy activists and organizations to his co-defendants, who are members of the Chinese government’s Ministry of State Security,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York said.
“Today’s indictment exposes and disrupts an operation by the PRC that threatens the safety and freedom of Chinese nationals residing in the United States on account of their pro-democracy beliefs and speech. Our office and our law enforcement partners will remain vigilant to thwart foreign espionage activities aimed at our citizens and residents,” Peace added.
The indictment was unsealed in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York City.
Targeting Dissidents and Activists
According to the Justice Department, Wang was using his position as a reputable academic and author who advocated for a pro-democracy organization to actually collect information on members of the Chinese diaspora who were supporting activism and human rights in China. Wang then passed the information to the Ministry of State Security (MSS), China’s main intelligence agency.
“If anyone doubts how serious the Chinese government is about silencing its critics, this case should eliminate any uncertainty. The Chinese government’s aggressive tactics were once confined to its borders. Now, the PRC is targeting people in the United States and around the world. The FBI and its partners remain committed to combatting transnational repression,” Acting Executive Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. from the FBI’s National Security Branch stated.