Five charged with harassing Chinese dissidents


FBI says the accused engaged in a series of actions designed to silence the free speech of Chinese dissidents

 

Five men have been charged with stalking and harassing Chinese dissidents in the US, including by seeking to derail the election bid of a congressional candidate, the Department of Justice said.

The cases underscore what American officials describe as increasingly aggressive efforts by Beijing to seek out, silence and threaten pro-democracy activists abroad.

Fan “Frank” Liu and Matthew Ziburis were arrested on Tuesday, while Shujun Wang was arrested on Wednesday. Two other accused men remain at large, including Qiang “Jason” Sun, who prosecutors say commissioned the others to act.

The defendants allegedly perpetrated schemes to target US residents whose political views and actions “are disfavoured by the [Chinese] government, such as advocating for democracy in [China], the department said in a statement.

“Authoritarian states around the world feel emboldened to reach beyond their borders to intimidate or exact reprisals against individuals who dare to speak out against oppression and corruption,” assistant attorney general Matthew Olsen said.

“This activity is antithetical to fundamental American values,” he added. “We will not tolerate such repression here when it violates our laws.”

In one of the new cases, two of the accused operating under the direction of an employee of a China-based international technology company spied on pro-democracy activists.

But the Federal Bureau of Investigation said all of the defendants were “charged today at the direction of China’s secret police.”

“They engaged in a series of actions designed to silence the free speech of Chinese dissidents,” said Michael J. Driscoll, the FBI assistant director-in-charge of the New York field office.

The accused also sought to illegally obtain and disseminate the federal tax returns of a dissident and also plotted to destroy the artwork of a dissident artist, prosecutors said.

A sculpture depicting Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a coronavirus was destroyed last year, although no one has been charged in that vandalism, the department said.

A lawyer for Liu argued at a court appearance that his client was not a flight risk and said the court case did not establish deep contacts between his client and the Chinese government.

 

 

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.