Nine Chinese nationals in America charged as being illegal agents of People’s Republic, part of bigger plot

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Two of the defendants have also been charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice as part of the campaign called “Operation Fox Hunt.”

In that effort federal authorities said, a Chinese prosecutor and a police officer allegedly traveled to the United States to direct the operation targeting the Chinese ex-patriates, now American citizens.

Authorities said Tu Lan, 50 along with Zhai Yongqiang, 46 were recently indicted while seven other defendants had been previously charged.

The others named in the indictment include Hu Ji, 46; Li Minjun, 65; Zhu Feng, 34, a Chinese resident who was living in Queens; Michael McMahon, 53 of Mahwah, NJ; Zheng Congying, 24 of Brooklyn; and Zhu Young (alias Jason Zhu), 64, of Norwich, CT.

The ninth defendant has had his/her name sealed as part of the indictment, according to acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis, quoted in a news released.

According to federal prosecutors, Lan was employed as a prosecutor with the Hanyang People’s Procuratorate, directed the harassment campaign and ordered one of the co-conspirators to destroy evidence and obstruct the investigation.

Not all of the suspects were taken into custody, with Lan, Ji, Minjun, Yongqiang and Feng all remaining at large. The release said the other defendants will be charged in the Eastern District of New York at a later time, the release read.

Between the years 2012 and 2014, the indictment read, the Chinese government caused the International Criminal Police Organization to issue so-called “red notices” for the couple, identified in the indictment as John Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 1, his wife. In the red notices, the John Doe No. 1 was wanted by the Communist Chinese government for embezzlement, abuse of power and accepting bribes.

Under Chinese law, to nobody’s surprise the crimes carry a maximum sentence of death. The charge of accepting bribes carried with it a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to the indictment.

 The indictment says that nine defendants participated in the campaign, designed to harass, threaten and intimidate the couple to return to China as part of Operation Fox Hunt.

That operation, run by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security seeks to locate Chinese fugitives who had fled to foreign countries.

Chinese government officials deliberately sidestepped U.S. authorities by traveling to the U.S. and directing non-official operatives to carry out the program, a violation of U.S. law, prosecutors said.

Furthermore, between 2016 and 2019, Lan and Ji, a Chinese police officer with the Wuhan Public Security Bureau, traveled to the United States and instructed the Chinese operatives to harass and threaten the couple to return to China.

Kasulis said that such activity by foreign government officials cannot include secret surveillance of U.S. residents and will not be tolerated.

To make matters worse, the suspects also transported the father of John Doe No. 1 to the U.S from China to tell him their family would be harmed in China if he didn’t return to that country. Lan returned to China and continued to direct the co-conspirators to harass the couple in the U.S.

“Today’s announcement serves to highlight the efforts of the FBI and its law enforcement partners to tirelessly and aggressively continue to utilize all available investigative tools and methods at their disposal to combat any illegal intrusions by the Chinese government to unilaterally undermine our economy and our free markets,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge George Crouch of the FBI’s Newark Field Office.

“The FBI remains committed to holding actors from the People’s Republic of China accountable when they direct criminal activity on U.S. soil. Further, the FBI will vigorously defend the American ideals of freedom and the rule of law against any foreign malign influence actors.”

Meanwhile, a Department of Justice charging document  said a federal grand jury in San Diego, California returned an indictment in May in which four nationals and residents of the People’s Republic of China were charged with attempting to hack into the computer systems of dozens of victim companies, universities and government entities in the United States and abroad between 2011 and 2018.

The indictment alleges that a majority of the conspiracy’s theft focused on information that was of “significant economic benefit to China’s companies and commercial sectors.” The indictment said that theft allowed “the circumvention of lengthy and resource-intensive research and development processes.

The conspirators tried to hide the Chinese government’s role in the thefts by establishing a front company known as Hainan Xiandun Technology Development Co., Ltd., which has since been disbanded.

The two-count indictment alleges that Ding Ziaoyang, Cheng Qingmin, and Zhu Yunmin were Hainan State Security Department (HSSD) officers responsible for coordinating, facilitating, and managing computer hackers and linguists at Hainan Xiandun and other MSS front companies to conduct hacking for the benefit of China and its state-owned and sponsored instrumentalities.

The fourth suspect, Wu Shurong was a computer hacker who created malware, hacked into computer systems operated by foreign governments, companies and universities, and supervised other Hainan Xiandun operatives.

The hacking victims included victims in the United States, Austria, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland and the UK.

Industries targeted included aviation, defense, education, government, health care biopharmaceutical, and maritime, among many others.

The stolen trade secrets and confidential business information included sensitive technologies used for submersibles and autonomous vehicles, specialty chemical formulas, commercial aircraft servicing and others. The hacking was utilized to support Communist China’s forays to secure contracts for state-owned enterprises within the targeted country, such as high-speed rail.

The plot used staff and professors at various universities in Hainan and elsewhere in China to further the conspiracy’s goals.

“These criminal charges once again highlight that China continues to use cyber-enabled attacks to steal what other countries make, in flagrant disregard of its bilateral and multilateral commitments,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco.

“The breadth and duration of China’s hacking campaigns, including these efforts targeting a dozen countries across sectors ranging from healthcare and biomedical research to aviation and defense, remind us that no country or industry is safe. Today’s international condemnation shows that the world wants fair rules, where countries invest in innovation, not theft.”

“The FBI, alongside our federal and international partners, remains committed to imposing risk and  consequences on these malicious cyber actors here in the U.S. and abroad,” said Deputy Director Paul M. Abbate of the FBI.

“We will not allow the Chinese government to continue to use these tactics to obtain unfair economic advantage for its companies and commercial sectors through criminal intrusion and theft. With these types of actions, the Chinese government continues to undercut its own claims of being a trusted and effective partner in the international community.”

The investigation was a joint operation between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Controls Section, and the FBI’s San Diego Field Office.

The FBI’s Cyber Division, Cyber Assistant Legal Attaches and Legal Attaches in countries around the world provided essential support. Numerous victims cooperated and provided valuable assistance in the investigation.

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For a flashback on a story we did a while back about a Harvard professor who was involved in some nefarious dealings in of all places, Wuhan. For more on that, we invite you to:

DIG DEEPER

BOSTON, MA- In a story that should shock nobody, a college professor from a far-left university has been arrested by federal law enforcement officials for lying to officials about his ties to a Chinese school, and a program aimed at furthering that country’s scientific development, economic prosperity and national security.

Charles Lieber, chairman of the university’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology department, was taken into custody at his office. Lieber was charged with one count of making a materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement—and was set to appear Tuesday in federal court in Boston, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Massachusetts.

Beginning in 2011:

“Lieber became a so-called ‘Strategic Scientist’ at Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in China and was also a contractual participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan from in or about 2012 to 2017,” a statement from the office says.

“China’s Thousand Talents Plan is one of the most prominent Chinese Talent recruitment plans that are designed to attract, recruit, and cultivate high-level scientific talent in furtherance of China’s scientific development, economic prosperity and national security,” it continues.

“These talent programs seek to lure Chinese overseas talent and foreign experts to bring their knowledge and experience to China and reward individuals for stealing proprietary information.”

Federal prosecutors said that Lieber’s research group at Harvard—which specializes in nanoscience—has received more than $15 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense.

In order to qualify for these grants, they require “the disclosure of significant foreign financial conflicts of interest, including financial support from foreign governments or foreign entities.”

However according to federal investigators, Lieber “lied” about his involvement with China and the Wuhan University of Technology. Under the terms of his Thousand Talents contract, they say, the school paid him $50,000 a month and awarded him more than $1.5 million to set up a research lab there.

Prosecutors also allege that the Wuhan institution also provided Lieber with round-trip, business class flights to and from China.

“In return, Lieber was obligated to work for WUT ‘not less than nine months a year’ by ‘declaring international cooperation projects, cultivating young teachers and Ph.D. students, organizing international conference[s], applying for patents and publishing articles in the name of’ WUT,” the district attorney’s office said in its statement.

Federal officials say that around 2018, “during an interview with investigators, Lieber stated that he was never asked to participate in the Thousand Talents Program” and that he “’wasn’t sure’ how China categorized him.”

The statement also says that later that year, Lieber “caused Harvard to falsely tell NIH that Lieber ‘had no formal association with WUT’ after 2012, that ‘WUT continued to falsely exaggerate’ his involvement with WUT in subsequent years, and that Lieber ‘is not and has never been a participant’ in China’s Thousand Talents Plan.”

In response to Lieber’s arrest, Harvard officials say he’s been placed on “indefinite” paid administrative leave and has been barred from the campus, according to the Harvard Crimson newspaper.

Harvard University spokesman Jonathan Swain said in a statement:

“The charges brought by the U.S. government against Professor Lieber are extremely serious. Harvard is cooperating with federal authorities, including the National Institutes of Health, and is conducting its own review of the alleged misconduct.”

Harvard, remember is the same university where last November, the student government voted to support an illegal immigration advocacy group’s petition to condemn the Harvard Crimson, the campus’ daily newspaper. Their crime?

Having the “unmitigated gall” to reach out to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for comment in response to a protest last September.

The Undergraduate Council, the student’s government, said that by reaching out to ICE, the Crimson caused “fear and feelings of unsafety” among students on campus.

“We condemn actions or policies that endanger undocumented and immigrant students on campus, and we encourage the Harvard Crimson to revisit their policies and make adequate changes,” the student government’s statement read in part.

“It is imperative for the Harvard Crimson to commit to journalistic practices that do not put students at risk.”

And they wonder why they are referred to as snowflakes.

Basically, what these wussbags want is only one side of the story to be reported. Opposing views are not welcome. These Harvard students are your basic Bernie Sanders supporters.

To their credit, the Crimson defended its actions.

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In its “Note to Readers,” The Crimson pointed out id did not provide the names or immigration statuses of individuals at the protest in its request for comment to ICE. The editors stressed that the students who were interviewed and speeches made at the public protest were on the record.

“A world where news outlets categorically refuse to contact certain kinds of sources—a world where news outlets let third-party groups dictate the terms of their coverage—is a less informed, less accurate, and ultimately less democratic world,” The Crimson said.

Unfortunately, most students on campuses such as Harvard and other bastions of the left do not want a democratic world. That is why they support self-avowed socialists like Sanders and AOC. Free speech be damned.

Flashback: FBI report – In 2018, CBP agents stopped Chinese national with three mysterious vials in his luggage

In November 2018, just over a year before the Chinese coronavirus came to the world’s attention in Wuhan, China, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents (you know, the ones that AOC and the Squad want to get rid of) stopped a Chinese biologist with three vials labeled “Antibodies” in his luggage at Detroit Metro Airport, Law Enforcement Today has learned via Yahoo News.

According to Yahoo, the biologist advised the agents that he had been asked to deliver the vials to a researcher at a U.S. institute by a colleague. After examining the vials however, customs agents became concerned.

“Inspection of the writing on the vials and the stated recipient lead inspection personnel to believe the materials within the vials may be viable Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) materials,” says an unclassified FBI tactical intelligence report that was obtained by Yahoo News.

In a written report by the Chemical and Biological Intelligence Unit of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, it does not mention the name of the Chinese scientist carrying the suspected SARS and MERS samples, nor the intended recipient in the U.S.

However, the FBI concluded that the incident, as well as two other cases cited in the report, were part of an alarming pattern.

“The Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate assesses foreign scientific researchers who transport undeclared and undocumented biological materials into the United States in their personal carry-on and/or checked luggage almost certainly represent a US biosecurity risk,” reads the report.

“The WMDD makes this assessment with high confidence based on liaison reporting with direct access.”

Nine Chinese nationals in America charged as being illegal agents of People's Republic, part of bigger plot

The report offers yet another red flag about Chinese involvement with the pandemic currently gripping the world aside from the claim that it started in a so-called “wet market” in the province of Wuhan.

The report came out more than two months before the World Health Organization, which has been covering for China’s involvement, learned of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan that turned out to be COVID-19.

It also appears to indicate a larger FBI concern with China’s involvement with scientific research in the U.S. While the report only broadly refers to foreign researchers, all three cases involve Chinese nationals.

 In the case of the vials which were suspected to be SARS and MERS, the intelligence report cites another classified document that is marked “FISA.”

In other words, it contains information collected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In yet another case cited in the report, it mentioned flu strains, while a third was suspected E. coli.

Nine Chinese nationals in America charged as being illegal agents of People's Republic, part of bigger plot

Nine Chinese nationals in America charged as being illegal agents of People's Republic, part of bigger plot

While the FBI does not indicate precisely what type of biosecurity risk these cases could present, Raina MacIntyre, a professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia said the FBI appears to be concerned with dual-use research that would be used for bioterrorism.

She also notes that if the prohibited samples cited in the report were being transported into the U.S., it is likely that the traffic went in both directions.

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“How do you know what they’re bringing in and out unless you have a comprehensive surveillance point?” she asked.

“If it’s going one way, it’s going the other way. You’d be very naïve to assume otherwise.”

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding worked on China issues on the National Security Council under the Trump Administration.

He said “there is a threat” posed by Chinese nationals carrying biological samples, but believes it’s “likely the carrier…would be someone who is unwitting,” making it difficult to determine what the intention was.

“Some likely could be deliberate, to test our ability to identify and intercept. Others could be opportunistic,” he said.

The report cited by the FBI refers to both biosecurity, which typically refers to the intentional misuse of pathogens, such as for bioterrorism, and biosafety, which covers accidental release. The FBI declined to comment on the report.

Concerns about biosafety where it concerns China is not new.

For instance, the SARS outbreak in 2003 was followed by several incidents of infections caused by laboratory accidents, including eight cases that resulted from mishandling at the Chinese Institute of Virology in Beijing.

“There have been cases in the past where a variant of some kind of flu pandemic had escaped from a laboratory because of mismanagement,” said Elsa Kania, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

While the cases involving the Chinese have been more conspicuous, the issue is not solely limited to Chinese researchers.

Kania continued:

“Certainly it is a biosecurity risk when anyone is transporting materials in a manner that is clandestine because…there have been several incidents when this has occurred with researchers of a variety of nationalities.”

Since tensions were already high between the US and China over matters such as trade, the coronavirus outbreak is likely to strain the relationship even more. Concerns about China’s breach of biosafety precautions have been longstanding, and this can only add to those concerns.

Andrew Weber, who worked during the Obama administration as the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, said the relationship with China in biological sciences has degraded over recent years.

“After SARS, when China needed technical help, it had a strong relationship with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. They were transparent, because they realized covering up an outbreak cost them dearly,” said Weber, now a senior fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks.

“In recent years, they’ve tightened up, making international cooperation more difficult.”

The last few weeks have seen an escalation in tensions between Washington and Beijing, as President Trump has [rightly] referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese” or “Wuhan” virus, much to the dismay of Democrats, who referred to the comments as racist, and used the same word to describe the president’s travel ban from China.

Trump looks pretty smart now, Democrats. While President Trump was looking at the coronavirus, Democrats were focused on their impeachment hoax. 

https://twitter.com/twosheeep1/status/1221114125171994624

Meanwhile, the Chinese have dreamed up random conspiracy theories that the virus was a plant from a U.S. Army weapons lab. Fortunately, not too many outside of the Chinese communists are buying it.

Scientists have said and actually been adamant that the virus is not a weapon, either from the United States or China (sorry, not buying it).

“There’s no basis to suspect it’s a laboratory construct,” says Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University. “It has none of the expected signatures that would be present for deliberate constriction.”

Ebright doesn’t exclude the possibility, however that the virus’s spread started from poor biosecurity in China.

A leading theory states that the virus jumped from wildlife to humans, believing that it happened at a live-animal, or “wet” market, where exotic species such as bats (what could possibly go wrong) are sold as food.

Ebright also notes that such wildlife viruses are collected in laboratories, including that in Wuhan.

“Therefore it’s also a possibility that this virus entered the human population through accidental infection of a lab worker carrying out a field collection, or an accident by a lab worker characterizing the sample in a laboratory,” he said.

The Justice Department has been involved in several cases involving the export of sensitive technology which involved Chinese scientists, or persons with alleged ties to the Chinese government.

Two months ago, Law Enforcement Today reported on a Justice Department indictment against a Harvard professor, Charles Lieber. Lieber, the chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology was indicted for concealing ties to the Chinese government.

Far-left Harvard professor arrested by feds, accused of lying about ties to China
Far-left Harvard professor arrested by feds, accused of lying about ties to China

“It’s a clear-cut case of a conflict of interest and unfortunately, it’s not an isolated incident,” said FBI special agent Joseph R. Bonavolonta, head of the Boston field office when he announced the charges.

Lieber has not yet entered a plea in the case and is free on a $1 million bond.

Of course, the “R” word has come out among academics where it concerns the government’s focus on China and Chinese scientists.

“I am concerned that the current trend in national security is toward profiling against people of Chinese descent,” said Nicholas Evans, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who specializes in medical ethics.

“That’s not only racist it’s bad practice. FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement attempts at profiling have very often been harmful without making us any safer.”

Just curious. We wonder how the professor feels about American citizens getting profiled by police, in say, Rhode Island? You now, New York residents who are being stopped at the border or having the National Guard and police hunt them down in Rhode Island to make sure they are quarantined, BECAUSE of a virus FROM China?

Evans questioned the FBI’s focus on scientists hand-carrying biological samples as a unique threat. He pointed to a U.S. lab in Maine that was fined over ten years ago for importing highly pathogenic avial flu viruses from Saudi Arabia.

“I am skeptical about the degree to which this particular behavior adds significant risks to security given that there are many other ways to get biological organisms into the country.”

Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it’s true that China has long had loopholes in its biosafety regulations. That history has already encouraged rumors like the idea that the coronavirus originated as a bioweapon. 

Now, with relations between China and the U.S. deteriorating, Huang expects collaboration on biological research to grow even more difficult, reversing decades of cooperation.

“I often argue that U.S. engagement with China is the most successful in the area of public health,” he said. Such cooperation even survived the difficult period after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Now, however, those relations are being set back as hostilities between the two countries grow over a plethora of issues, with the pandemic outbreak being the most recent and most serious. 

“You could argue, health is borderless, especially when two countries face these common challenges. This would be a time for them to collaborate mostly closely,” he said. “That turned out to not be the case.”

Not the case. Very interesting that China has taken an adversarial approach when it comes to a worldwide pandemic that they started. One would think that they would be going out of their way to help. 

Strange indeed. 

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