40 Chinese National Police officers have been charged with participating in international repression campaigns that target Americans.
The defendants are charged with setting up fictitious social media accounts to harass PRC dissidents and cooperating with staff members of a U.S. telecommunications company to ban dissidents from the company’s platform.
In two criminal complaints uncovered today in federal court in Brooklyn by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, 44 plaintiffs were charged with various offenses connected to the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) national police, harassing Chinese nationals living in the New York metropolitan area and other parts of the United States.
The defendants, which include two CAC officials and 40 MPS officers, are accused of carrying out international repression campaigns against Americans who support democratic reforms in the PRC and other political views that are unpopular with the PRC government.
In the two schemes, the defendants set up and used fictitious social media profiles to harass and threaten PRC dissidents abroad and attempted to stifle their right to free speech on the website of a U.S. telecommunications business (business-1). It is suspected that the defendants accused in these schemes live in the PRC or another country in Asia and are still at large.
These cases, according to Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, “demonstrate the lengths the PRC government will go to silence and intimidate U.S. persons who exercise their basic freedoms to speak out against PRC oppression, including by unlawfully exploiting a U.S.-based technology company.” These measures are against the law, democratic principles, and fundamental human rights.
Acting Assistant Director Kurt Ronnow of the FBI Counterintelligence Division stated that “China’s Ministry of Public Security used operatives to target people of Chinese descent who had the courage to speak out against the Chinese Communist Party – in one case by covertly spreading propaganda that eroded confidence in our democratic systems and, in another, by suppressing U.S. video conference users’ free speech.” “We won’t put up with the CCP’s attempts to intimidate, threaten, and harass citizens here in the United States. The FBI will continue to oppose the Chinese government’s attempts to break our laws and restrict citizens’ rights and freedoms.
Disclosure: In the case titled United States v. Julien Jin et al., 20-mj-1103, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York has been disqualified and has not taken part in it.
in the case of Yunpeng Bai and others.
In the two-count accusation, 34 MPS officers are accused of conspiring to send interstate threats and intercontinental harassment. The defendants are still at large and are thought to all live in the PRC.
The officers, it is claimed, were employed by Beijing’s MPS bureau and were members of an exclusive task force known as the “912 Special Project Working Group” (the Group). The Group’s goal is to find and kill Chinese dissidents anywhere in the world, including the United States.
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York said, “As alleged, the PRC government deploys its national police and the 912 Special Project Working Group not as a tool to uphold the rule of law and protect the security of the public, but rather as a troll farm that attacks people in our country for exercising their free speech in a way the PRC government finds objectionable and also spreads propagation whose sole purpose is to sow divisions within the United States.” “I applaud the investigative team for completely exposing the treachery of a state-directed criminal scheme targeting Americans,” the author said.
In order to harass and threaten Chinese dissidents online, the complaint claims that members of the Group constructed thousands of false online personas on social media platforms like Twitter. To counter the pro-democracy rhetoric of the Chinese dissidents, these internet avatars also propagated official PRC government propaganda and narratives.
For instance, it is alleged that Group members used temporary email addresses to create and maintain the fake social media accounts, posted content from the PRC government, and engaged in online conversations to avoid giving the impression that the Group accounts were “flooding” a particular social media platform. The Group monitors how well each member performs their duties online and awards those who effectively manage several online personas without drawing attention from either other platform users or the social media corporations that host the platforms.
The research also turned up formal MPS requests for Group members to produce videos and articles on specific subjects, including as the actions of Chinese dissidents abroad or U.S. government policies.
The defendants allegedly also tried to recruit Americans to work as unsuspecting agents of the PRC government by spreading propaganda or PRC government-related stories. The defendants encouraged people they believed to be sympathetic to and supportive of the PRC government’s narratives to spread Group content on a number of occasions using online aliases.
Additionally, Group members repeatedly took positive steps to have meetings and Chinese dissidents removed off the Company-1 by making threats against the attendees in a videoconference that a dissident was holding to remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre, for instance, Group members interfered with the event. Another Company-1 videoconference on battling communism was hosted by a PRC dissident. Group members swarmed the videoconference, drowning out the discussion with loud music, rude cries, and threats directed at the pro-democracy attendees.
in the case of Julien Jin and others.
In this updated complaint, 10 people are accused of conspiring to engage in interstate harassment as well as illegally transferring identifying documents. These people include a former employee of Company-1 headquartered in the PRC, six MPS officers, and two CAC representatives. Nine of the accused are still at large and are thought to live in the PRC. The 10th defendant, who is still at large, is thought to reside in either Indonesia or the PRC.
“The amended complaint charging a former PRC-based employee of a U.S. telecommunications company illustrates the insider threat faced by U.S. companies operating in the PRC,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Pokorny for the Eastern District of New York, thanking Company-1 for its assistance in the government’s investigation. “As claimed, Julien Jin and his accomplices in the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and Cyberspace Administration weaponized the U.S. telecommunications company he worked for to intimidate and silence dissenters and enforce PRC law to the detriment of Chinese activists in New York, among other places, who had sought refuge in this country to peacefully express their pro-democracy views,” the report reads.
According to Assistant Director in Charge David Sundberg of the FBI Washington Field Office, “These cases show that the Chinese Communist Party tried to intimidate, harass, and suppress Chinese dissidents in the United States once more.” “In the United States, the right to free speech is a fundamental component of our democratic system, and the FBI will spare no effort to protect everyone’s ability to express themselves without fear of reprisal from the CCP. These intricate investigations uncovered an MPS-wide initiative to suppress people by stifling political and religious discourse on social media and leveraging the American communications infrastructure.
In connection with Julien Jin’s attempts to obstruct a series of gatherings on the Company-1 platform held in May and June 2020 remembering the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, the Department first filed charges against him in December 2020. Jin acted as Company-1’s main point of contact with the PRC government’s security and intelligence agencies. In that capacity, he frequently complied with requests from the PRC government to end conferences and ban individuals from using Company-1’s video conferencing system.
According to the original complaint, Jin and others planned to use Company-1’s American systems to restrict people’s political and religious expression who were based in the US and elsewhere at the PRC government’s request. Examples include the Tiananmen Square Massacre and other politically sensitive themes that Jin and others disrupted meetings on on the Company-1 platform. Jin and his accomplices created falsified proof of alleged wrongdoing in order to get Company-1 workers residing in the United States to call off the meetings.
According to the claims in the amended complaint, Jin collaborated with and obeyed directions from defendants at the MPS and the CAC to obstruct meetings on the Company-1 platform, and the co-defendants targeted the speech of American dissidents on the platform since 2018.
Beginning in 2018, Jin and his co-defendants regularly tried to stop video chat gatherings that were set up by a Chinese dissident living in New York City who had been a vocal opponent of the PRC government and the Chinese Communist Party. After the CAC requested that Company-1 stop the dissident’s meetings on the Company-1 platform, Jin worked to find all accounts connected to the dissident, arranged for meetings to be held in a “quarantine zone” (i.e., on a server known for having response time lags), and later worked to block all accounts connected to the dissident. In a similar manner, Jin worked with the MPS and CAC in 2019 to block accounts that aimed to remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
The cases were looked into by the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Scott A. Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander A. Solomon, Antoinette N. Rangel, Ian C. Richardson, Nicholas J. Moscow, and Jessica K. Weigel of the Eastern District of New York.
For victims to report attempts by foreign governments to stalk, intimidate, or abuse Americans, the FBI has set up a website. Please go to: http://www.fbi.gov/investigate/counterintelligence/transnational-repression for more information