Flushing scholar accused of spying on Chinese nationals in Queens for People’s Republic of China: Feds

U.S. Attorney Breon Peace announces charges against five individuals for spying on Chinese nationals in Queens including a 73-year-old Flushing scholar. (Photo courtesy of EDNY)

A 73-year-old Chinese scholar who lives in Flushing is among five individuals who were charged in Brooklyn federal court Wednesday with various crimes including stalking, harassing and spying on Chinese nationals in Queens and elsewhere in the United States.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Shujun Wang, who helped create a pro-democracy organization in Queens, was arrested in Flushing on March 16. Wang, a dissident and human rights leader, is charged with covertly operating against Chinese activists at the direction of the secret police of the People’s Republic of China known as the Ministry of State Security (MSS), according to federal prosecutors.

At the direction of the MSS, Wang used his position and status within the Chinese diaspora community in Queens to collect information about prominent activists to report that information to the Chinese government. While ostensibly lending a sympathetic ear, Wang reported on statements made in confidence to him, including their views on democracy in the People’s Republic of China, as well as planned speech, writings and demonstrations against the Chinese Communist Party.

Prosecutors added that the victims of Wang’s efforts included Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, advocates for Taiwanese independence and Uyghur and Tibetan activists in Queens, the U.S. and abroad.

In all, five individuals were charged by federal prosecutors, but two of them are still on the run.

“The complaints unsealed today reveal the outrageous and dangerous lengths to which the PRC government’s secret police and these defendants have gone to attack the rule of law and freedom in New York City and elsewhere in the United States,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “As alleged, all three cases involve campaigns to silence, harass, discredit and spy on U.S. residents for simply exercising their freedom of speech. The United States will not tolerate blatantly illegal actions that target U.S. residents, on U.S. soil, and undermine our treasured American values and rights.”

In a series of communications on Nov. 22, 2016, Wang’s MSS handler instructed him to meet with a particular attendee at a pro-democracy event in Queens and to “accomplish the task” assigned by the “Boss.” The MSS handler emphasized that the attendee had contacts with ‘Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians.”

Similarly, on Nov. 6, 2016, Wang informed another MSS handler that he “just finished chatting” with a prominent human rights activist and had asked the “necessary questions” and received “candid” answers. The MSS officer responded great” and with a thumbs-up emoji. Instructing Wang to record that information in his email diary.

“The Ministry of State Security is more than an intelligence collection agency. It executes the Chinese government’s efforts to limit free speech, attack dissidents and preserve the power of the Communist Party,” FBI Assistant Director Allen E. Kohler said. “When it exports those actions overseas, it violates the fundamental sovereignty of the U.S. and becomes a national security threat. These indictments should serve as a stark warning to the MSS and all foreign intelligence agencies that their efforts at repression will not be tolerated within our borders.”

If convicted, Wang faces a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison. Fan “Frank” Liu, 62, of Jericho, LI and Mattew Zuburis, 49, of Oyster Bay, were arrested Tuesday and charged on a separate complaint in Brooklyn federal court.