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U.S. Citizen, Chinese Intelligence charged with spying on critics

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney’s Office

Eastern District of New York


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

U.S. Citizen and Four Chinese Intelligence Officers Charged with Spying on Prominent Pro-Democracy Activists, Dissidents, and Human Rights Leaders

The Defendants Allegedly Conspired to Silence Critics of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the United States and Abroad

An indictment was returned yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn charging Shujun Wang, a U.S. citizen and Queens resident, and four officials from China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), with conspiracy and other charges related to an espionage and transnational repression scheme.  The four MSS officers are Feng He, also known as “Boss He,” Jie Ji, Ming Li, also known as “Elder Tang” and “Little Li,” and Keqing Lu, also known as “Boss Lu.”  Wang was previously arrested on March 16, 2022, pursuant to a criminal complaint, and he will be arraigned at a later date.  He, Ji, Li, and Lu remain at large.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the charges.

“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: members of the Chinese government’s Ministry of State Security,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “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.”

“We will not tolerate efforts by the PRC or any authoritarian government to export repressive measures to our country,” stated Assistant Attorney General Olsen. “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.”

“Working for the People’s Republic of China, we allege Wang participated in a pro-democracy organization with the insidious intent to spy on those who joined. He targeted dissidents living in the United States, putting their lives at risk. The Chinese government has proven time and again it is willing to overlook our laws to hunt down those who speak out against the regime. We are working aggressively with our law enforcement partners to thwart these actions, and we hope those who fear for their safety will reach out to us,” stated Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.

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, as alleged, 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. 

As alleged in the indictment, 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 often memorialized 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. 

For example, in one series of communications on or about November 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 good luck at getting “good results.”  In another exchange on or about November 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. 

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

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section.  Assistant United States Attorney Artie McConnell is in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Scott A. Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

The Defendants:

WANG SHUJUN
Age:  73
Queens, New York

FENG HE (also known as “Boss He”)
Age: 49
Guangdong, PRC

JIE JI
Age: 50
Qingdao, PRC

MING LI (also known as “Elder Tang” and “Little Li”)
Age: 40
Guangdong, PRC

KEQING LU (also known as “Boss Lu”)
Age: 61
Qingdao, PRC

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 22-CR-00230 (SJ) (JRC)

Links:

DOJ Press Release

Indictment

Categories: China-related “sanctions” Department of Justice (DOJ) Updates Indictments and Arrests

eric9to5

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