U.S. authorities announced charges Wednesday against five people who were allegedly working for the Chinese secret police to spy on and harass Chinese nationals living in the U.S. who had been critical of Beijing.
Breon Peace, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the charges.
The five allegedly harassed, stalked and spied on their targets.
One person, Qiming Lin — named in the court filings as a member of China’s Ministry of State Security and currently based in China — allegedly tried to interfere with the candidacy of one target, a U.S. military veteran who was running for Congress. The candidate had been involved in the 1989 pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square, which the Chinese government violently suppressed.
Another allegedly tried to destroy the artwork of one target who was living in the Los Angeles area.
Another, who started a pro-democracy group in the Queens borough of New York City, was charged with collecting information about prominent activists and passing the information to the Chinese government.
"Transnational repression harms people in the United States and around the world and threatens the rule of law itself,” said Matthew G. Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security, who added that the U.S. “will not allow any foreign government” to engage in such activities.
Peace said the charges “reveal the outrageous and dangerous lengths” China will go to to “silence, harass, discredit and spy on U.S. residents for simply exercising their freedom of speech.”
Three of the five defendants have been arrested and were set to appear in court on Wednesday. Two remain at large.
The charges are the latest in an attempt by the Justice Department to expose Chinese efforts to harass dissidents in the U.S.
In 2015, the Obama administration reportedly warned Beijing against Chinese agents involved in such activities.
Some information in this report came from Reuters.