The US accuses Chinese nationals of plotting to steal information, punish critics and recruit spies

Washington – That The Justice Department on Monday unsealed indictments in three separate cases accusing more than a dozen defendants, most of them Chinese officials, of participating in schemes to deport critics of the Chinese government, obtaining secret information about a U.S. investigation of a Chinese telecommunications company and recruit spies. to act as agents of the Chinese regime in the United States

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the charges along with FBI Director Chris Wray and top Justice Department officials. Ten of the 13 people charged in the cases are Chinese officials, Wray said.

“As these cases demonstrate, the Chinese government sought to interfere with the rights and freedoms of individuals in the United States and to undermine our legal system that protects those rights. It failed,” Garland said.

“Beijing may think that our adherence to the rule of law is a weakness, but they are wrong,” Wray said. “Our democratic and legal processes arm us with weapons that China does not have.”

In one of the cases, two Chinese intelligence officers were accused of trying to block the criminal investigation of a Chinese telecommunications company, with allegations that the pair worked with a double agent who gave them information at the behest of the FBI. The two defendants, Guochun He and Zheng Wang, remain at large. Guochun Han has also been charged with money laundering based on bribes to the double agent.

The scheme, which allegedly started in 2019, involved He and Wang instructing US law enforcement officials to steal confidential information about the criminal case against the global telecom company, including files from the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn. In return, the double agent received a bribe worth $61,000 in bitcoin.

The affidavit filed in support of the charges does not name the company, but refers to a press release issued by the Department of Justice in February 2020. The department disclosed charges against Huawei, a China-based company that is one of the world’s largest network vendors equipment used by telephone and Internet companies in the same month. The telecom giant and its subsidiaries were accused of orchestrating what the Justice Department said was a decades-long scheme to steal trade secrets from U.S. technology companies.

US Attorney General Garland announces the results of operations conducted against alleged attempts by China to steal US technology at the Department of Justice in Washington
Attorney General Merrick Garland announces charges against Chinese nationals at Department of Justice on October 24, 2022.

JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS


The charging documents released Monday detail the relationship he and Wang allegedly had with the unnamed law enforcement official beginning in February 2017, when the agent, acting under the direction of the FBI, provided “allegedly sensitive information” about the Justice Department’s case against the police. telecommunications company.

The two repeatedly sought information about the Chinese company beginning in January 2019, when charges were first announced against the company, “in an attempt to interfere with the prosecution and the ongoing investigation,” federal prosecutors allege.

The indictment cites messages and phone calls between the two Chinese nationals and the US government employee, including a phone call on February 4, 2019, in which Wang “expressed interest” in obtaining non-public information about the US government’s investigation into the company.

In August 2021, the double agent wrote to He asking for guidance on what information he wanted collected from US law enforcement. He, the Chinese intelligence officer, reportedly replied that he wanted information about the telco “and anything about trade talk, attitude, analysis, potential measures, targets, offers … is useful,” adding “specific cases of sanctions against Chinese companies are also good .”

Then, in the fall of 2021, the double agent falsely told He and Wang that the official was meeting with the team of government lawyers preparing the trial against Huawei. In one exchange, according to court documents, he asked the U.S. government employee if federal prosecutors would “make a plea” and if there was a witness list to share.

The indictment also cites an interaction between the double agent and the Chinese officers in October 2021, in which the agent sent a single page from an alleged internal strategy memo from federal prosecutors that appeared to be classified as “SECRET.” The memo discussed a plan to target and arrest two Huawei employees living in China. One of the defendants, He, responded that the document was “exactly what I’m waiting for,” according to court documents, and then paid the undercover agent about $41,000 in bitcoin to steal the memorandum.

The agent also asked He and Wang for feedback on the document labeled “SECRET,” and he said the Chinese telecom company “hasn’t given me specific feedback yet, but they are obviously interested in it, and my boss and they need further information.” He also told the double agent that the company, believed to be Huawei, “will obviously be interested” in the undercover agent stealing another part of the strategy memo.

Communication between the double agent and He lasted until October 20, 2022, during which time the individuals discussed a reward for the work.

In another case, prosecutors in New Jersey charged four people, including three Chinese intelligence officers, with unsuccessfully trying to recruit a former federal law enforcement official and home state official to work in the United States as an agent for China.

Charging documents unsealed Monday allege that from 2008 to at least 2018, Wang Lin and three co-defendants used an affiliation with a Chinese academic institution as a cover to identify, target and direct individuals in the United States to act on China’s behalf, including attempt to pressure the individual to stop a planned protest against China in the United States and other allegedly “secret” activities.”

The third case announced by Garland involves seven people allegedly working on behalf of the Chinese government who were accused of participating in a multi-year campaign to force a US resident to return to China. Two of the seven people charged were arrested last week, although the remaining five are at large.

“China has a history of targeting political dissidents and critics of the government who have sought aid and refuge in other countries,” Garland said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

The public prosecutor said the campaign included harassment, threats, surveillance and intimidation aimed at forcing the individual to return to China. Those involved allegedly also harassed the victim’s family members.

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