Friday, May 20, 2022

Chinese Intelligence Officers Charged with Spying on PRC Critics, Human Rights Leaders and Pro-Democracy Activists

 According to a DOJ's Office of Public Affairs,  four officials from China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) and another man, were charged in an indictment, unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn yesterday, with conspiracy and other charges related to an espionage and transnational repression scheme.

According to court documents, Wang Shujun, 73, of Queens, New York; Feng He, aka Boss He, of Guangdong; Jie Ji, of Qingdao; Ming Li, aka Elder Tang and Little Li, of Guangdong; and Keqing Lu aka Boss Lu, of Qingdao, allegedly participated in an espionage and transnational repression scheme in the United States and abroad. Wang was arrested on March 16, pursuant to a criminal complaint, and will be arraigned at a later date. He, Ji, Li and Lu remain at large

Wang is a well-known academic and author who helped start a pro-democracy organization in Queens that opposes the current communist regime in China. However, since at least 2011, Wang has used his position and status within the Chinese diaspora and dissident communities to covertly collect information about prominent activists and human rights leaders on behalf of the MSS and PRC.  He, Ji, Li and Lu acted as Wang’s handlers, directing Wang to target specific individuals and groups that the PRC considers subversive, such as Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, advocates for Taiwanese independence, and Uyghur and Tibetan activists, and obtain information on particular topics and matters of importance to the MSS. 

Wang communicated and provided information to the MSS, including to He, Ji, Li and Lu, by using encrypted messaging applications and emails, as well as during face-to-face meetings in the PRC. Wang would often memorialize the information he collected in email “diaries” to be accessed by the MSS. These “diaries” included details about Wang’s private conversations with prominent dissidents, as well as the activities of pro-democracy activists and human rights organizations. A search of Wang’s residence incident to his arrest revealed approximately 163 “diary” entries Wang wrote to He, Ji, Li and Lu and other MSS officials. 

In one series of communications on or about Nov. 22, 2016, Ji instructed Wang to interface with a particular attendee at an upcoming pro-democracy event and to “accomplish the task” assigned by the “Boss,” referring to Lu. Ji noted that the attendee of interest had contacts with “Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians” and wished Wang luck at getting “good results.”  In another exchange on or about Nov. 16, 2016, Wang informed Li that he “just finished chatting” with a prominent human rights activist, noting that he asked the “necessary questions” and received “candid” answers. Li responded “great” and with a thumbs-up emoji, instructing Wang to write it in a “diary.” At least one Hong Kong democracy activist and dissident that Wang reported on to the MSS, identified as “Hong Kong Dissident #1” in the indictment, was subsequently arrested by the PRC. 

Additionally,  the indictment alleges that Wang transferred and possessed telephone numbers and contact information belonging to Chinese dissidents to the MSS, as well as making materially false statements to federal law enforcement, falsely denying that he had contacts with PRC officials or the MSS. 


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