WASHINGTON -- Wednesday's Justice Department criminal charges were not filed. They relate to what prosecutors called three separate attempts by agents of the Chinese government intimidate opponents of the regime in the U.S.A, including a candidate for Congress.
"The unsigned complaints reveal the outrageously dangerous and dangerous lengths that the [People's Republic of China] government's hidden police and these defendants have gone in order to attack the rule of the law," stated Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn where the cases were filed.
According to law enforcement officials Arthur Liu was one of the targets. He is a San Francisco Bay lawyer and activist.
He told NBC News that "they are still paying attention" to him after 30 years of organizing protests and hunger strikes in China for democracy.
Liu claimed that a student was sent to spy upon him in the 1990s. However, he ended up confessing to his crimes after Liu invited him into his home and helped him find work. He said Wednesday, "I'm a bit surprised that after all these years, they're still tracking me."
Prosecutors allege that Matthew Ziburis was a former Florida corrections officer who was hired by a Long Island businessman to spy on Liu, get copies of Liu's passport, and obtain his Social Security numbers. According to court documents Ziburis tried discourage the idea that someone could bribe an IRS employee for the information.
"Boss must realize that this isn’t China where corruption is far greater than in the US," Ziburis wrote his Chinese handler.
Alysa Liu's father, Liu, is Olympic figure skater Alysa Liu. She has often credited him for supporting her and encouraging her. During the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, she said that Liu "just helps me so much."
According to sources familiar with the matter, Xiong Yan was another target for Chinese agents. He was involved with the 1989 Tiananmen square protests. According to court documents, Qiming Lin, a Chinese agent, encouraged Yan to "find dirt" to discourage him from joining the race.
According to court records, the agent asked: "Can we make something?" Lin suggested hiring a prostitute, and even suggested that the private detective could find some way to injure Yan by beating him or getting involved in a car crash.
Lin stated that "Right now we don't want to him being elected", according to court documents.
Yan is a naturalized U.S. citizen and served in the U.S. Army. His campaign office didn't immediately respond to a request of comment. He is a Democratic candidate for New York's First Congressional District. His representative is GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin.
Officials from the Justice Department said that they believed this was the first instance of Chinese government trying to intimidate U.S. congressional candidates.
According to prosecutors, both private investigators who were contacted by Chinese agents became worried about the tasks they were being asked to perform and contacted FBI to monitor their communications.
Long Island businessman Weiming Chen was also accused of attacking a California artist. Chen had created a sculpture that depicted Chinese President Xi Jinping with a coronavirus molecule. It was set on fire in the last year.
According to the FBI, Chinese agents conspired to hide cameras and microphones in the studio of the artist.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington didn't immediately respond to inquiries regarding the unresolved charges.
Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, is one of the most vocal critics of Chinese spying by the U.S. government. He stated that Chinese Americans were the most affected by Beijing's spying. In a recent interview with NBC News, he stated that the Chinese government has made efforts to enter the United States and engage in repressive behavior.
Matthew Olsen is the assistant attorney general responsible for the National Security Division. He said that he has witnessed an alarming increase in attempts by authoritarian nations to intimidate critics in the U.S.
Federal prosecutors also charged Iran, Egypt and Belarus with similar activities over the past two-years, as well as other cases alleging Chinese intimidation.