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Chinese secret police targeted congressional candidate and Olympic skater [Alysa Liu's] family, federal indictment says

Hamartia Antidote

Nov 17, 2013
United States
United States


Five people in the US acting on behalf of Chinese secret police sought to intimidate Chinese nationals and US critics of Beijing – including a New York congressional candidate and an Olympic figure skater and her father – to silence dissident voices abroad, according to federal prosecutors in New York.

Three criminal complaints from the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn allege a series of “transnational repression schemes” from agents of the Chinese government, some spanning several years, including seeking to undermine the candidacy of a Democratic congressional candidate in New York and spying on an artist in Los Angeles.

Fan “Frank” Liu and Matthew Ziburis were arrested on 15 March. Shujun Wang was arrested on 16 March. Two other defendants – Qiming Lin and Qiang “Jason” Sun – remain at large, according to the Justice Department.

Federal prosecutors have identified the men as working under China’s Ministry of State Security, a civilian intelligence and secret police agency.

Prosecutors allege Qiming Lin hired a private detective – “whatever price is fine” – to find compromising information about the candidate or to “manufacture something,” telling the investigator to “go find a girl … or see how he goes for prostitution, take some photos, something of that nature,” according to messages contained in the indictment.


The candidate, who is not named in the indictment, is believed to be Xiong Yan, a Tiananmen student protester who escaped to the US in 1992 with political asylum and served in the US Army veteran. He announced his candidacy for 2022 elections last year.

“Right now we don’t want him to be elected,” Lin is alleged to have told the investigator.

In December 2021, Lin also suggested that the investigator physically attack him to prevent his candidacy, according to prosecutors.

“You can start thinking now, aside from violence, what other plans are there?” Lin said, according to a voice message in the indictment. “But in the end, violence would be fine too. … Beat him until he cannot run for election. ... That’s the – the last resort. You – you think about it. Car accident, [he] will be completely wrecked [chuckles], right? Don’t know, eh, whatever ways from all different angles. Or, on the day of the election, he cannot make it there himself, right?”

In another case, prosecutors allege Queens resident and US citizen Shujun Wang of working under the direction of Chinese agents for at least 15 years, including as an informant within a pro-democracy organisation in New York to “collect information about prominent activists, dissidents, and human rights leaders to report that information” to Chinese government officials.

Jim Li, the co-founder of that organisation – the Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang Memorial Foundation – was fatally stabbed in his office in Queens on Monday. Prosecutors do not believe the cases are related.

The indictment alleges that Wang sent email “diaries” to the secret police with details of his conversations with dissidents, including their phone numbers and contact information.

In April 2019, Wang allegedly flew from China to John F Kennedy International Airport in New York with a “handwritten document” including the names of “dozens” of political dissidents and Hong Kong democracy activists who were later arrested.

In April 2020, a Hong Kong democracy activist who was previously identified to Chinese authorities by Wang was arrested in China and jailed on political charges, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors also allege three other men – Long Island resident Fan “Frank” Liu, bodyguard and former correctional officer Matthew Ziburis, and Qiang “Jason” Sun – worked to gather intelligence on more than a dozen people, including using GPS trackers and collecting any evidence of “bad behavior” towards China, Liu said, according to prosecutors.

Defendants also allegedly pushed a private investigator to spy on and bribe an Internal Revenue Service employee for tax returns belonging to a victim believed to be Los Angeles artist Weiming Chen, who created a sculpture depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping as a coronavirus molecule. The sculpture was destroyed in a fire last year.

Chen is not named in the indictment, but documents include photographs of the sculpture and descriptions that match his artwork.

The men also surveilled and followed Arthur Liu, the father of US Olympic figure skater Alysa Liu, who is believed to be “dissident 3” in the indictment, with his daughter listed as “family member”. Ziburis allegedly took pictures of their home and office and sent them to Frank Liu.

Ziburis also allegedly sought to dissuade him from tracking down their Social Security numbers through the IRS.

“Boss [Sun] has to realize that this isn’t China where there is far more corruption than in the US,” he said, according to the indictment.

He also planned to meet with Arthur Liu “while posing as a member of an international sports committee,” according to prosecutors.

“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 US Attorney General Matthew Olsen said on 16 March. “This activity is antithetical to fundamental American values – we will not tolerate such repression here when it violates our laws.”

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