A US federal grand jury has indicted one current and one former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) worker in connection with an alleged scheme to silence critics of the Chinese government, in which a total of five people were involved, according to the Justice Department.
Ties between Beijing and Washington remain rocky, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry stating earlier this year that the bilateral relationship “has not yet emerged from the predicament created by the previous US administration but has instead encountered more and more challenges.”
The indictment revealed on Thursday that DHS employee Craig Miller and Derrick Taylor, a retired DHS agent working as a private investigator, are accused of accessing and providing information about Chinese activists from a restricted government database to two more defendants, who then used the records to target the victims.
US prosecutors claimed that Fan “Frank” Liu, Qiang “Jason” Sun, and Matthew Ziburis perpetrated a campaign to “spy on, harass and discredit” dissidents living in the US and to crush criticism of Beijing.
According to the prosecutors, an unspecified artist in California was among the “dissidents” allegedly targeted by the defendants. The prosecutors argued that Ziburus posed as a dealer interested in buying the painter’s artwork, and secretly installed surveillance cameras and GPS devices at the artist’s studio and in his car. The defendants purportedly planned to destroy the dissident’s artwork.
Referring to the indictment, Matthew Olsen, Assistant US Attorney General for National Security, pledged that he and his colleagues “will defend the rights of people in the United States to engage in free speech and political expression, including views the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government wants to silence.”
“As charged, these individuals aided agents of a foreign government in seeking to suppress dissenting voices who have taken refuge here. The defendants include two sworn law enforcement officers who chose to forsake their oaths and violate the law,” Olsen added.
The remarks followed the Chinese Foreign Ministry describing the US as “the biggest threat to world peace, stability and development.” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijan told reporters that “the relevant US politician has been playing up the so-called China threat to smear and attack China.”
He referred to FBI Director Christopher Wray earlier delivering a speech at the MI5 building in London, where he warned of the “complex, enduring and pervasive danger” that China purportedly poses to both the US and the UK.
Wray said that the Chinese government “poses an even more serious threat to Western businesses than even many sophisticated business people realize,” arguing that the “danger” from China is “complex and growing.”
“The Chinese government is trying to shape the world by interfering in our politics, and those of our allies. All of that is to say – China poses a far more complex and pervasive threat to businesses than even the most sophisticated company leaders realize,” the FBI director pointed out.
He spoke after America’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) accused China of seeking to “exploit US subnational relationships to influence US policies and advance PRC geopolitical interests.”
As we celebrate our independence this year we must remember that the 1973 film Soylent Green took place in 2022.