Article United States: US Citizen and Four Chinese Citizens Indicted on Espionage and Transnational Repression-Related Charges

On May 18, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a press release stating that one U.S. citizen and four Chinese intelligence officers have been formally indicted on several charges related to espionage and transnational repression, which is generally understood as harassment or intimidation of foreign nationals by their own government. The U.S. citizen involved, Shujun Wang, is a prominent Chinese-American pro-democracy advocate based in Queens, New York. Allegedly, Wang has been using his position of prominence in the Chinese dissident and diaspora community to share information with the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS). The parties generally relied on online communications to share information about persons of interest who met with Wang, including at least one dissident who was later arrested in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). An indictment was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on May 17, 2022. (Indictment, Case No. 1:22-cr-00230(SJ)(JRC).)

Facts of the Indictment

The indictment states that the MSS historically has conducted foreign intelligence gathering on behalf of the Chinese government. The MSS is also engaged in the PRC’s counterintelligence services and political security. (Indictment at 1–2.) It further states that the MSS agents were responsible for recruiting foreigners to serve as “assets” — providing information and intelligence back to the MSS while maintaining cover in another country. The defendants in this case allegedly collected intelligence information on supporters of the Uyghur independence movement, Tibetan independence movement, Taiwan independence movement, Falun Gong, and Chinese democracy movement. The Chinese government collectively refers to these groups as “the five poisons.” (Indictment at 2.)

The American defendant, Shujun Wang, has been a naturalized citizen since 2003, first arriving in the United States in 1994. (Indictment at 3.) Wang worked as a professor, and has since been involved as a leader of the Chinese pro-democracy movement. The other four defendants are Chinese agents of the MSS, and are all based in various locations in China. (Indictment at 4–5.) Since 2005, Wang has collected information on Chinese dissidents and shared the information with the four MSS agents. (Indictment at 6.)

The defendant shared information with the MSS agents by writing “diaries” about his interactions with targeted dissidents and other individuals targeted by the MSS. (Indictment at 6.) The defendants used an email server to share the “diaries” and other messages. (Indictment at 6–7.) On investigation, it was discovered that Wang would save email drafts entitled “diaries” on the email server, where the MSS agents could review the drafts without the email messages ever being sent. (Indictment at 10.) Messages discussing Wang’s contacts with Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Mongolians were discovered, with MSS agents directing Wang to compile information on various individuals and parties. (Indictment at 7–9.)

Along with the more general statements alleged in the indictment, prosecutors also point to several specific instances of conduct by Wang. Wang reported on a well-known dissident from Hong Kong, eventually leading to his arrest in the PRC. (Indictment at 11–12.) Wang has also been accused of lying about his contacts and actions to both FBI and Customs and Border Patrol agents. (Indictment at 13–15.) Much of the evidence collected against Wang was the result of the work of an undercover informant, and a subsequent interview and search of Wang’s residence by FBI agents. (Indictment at 15–19.)

Relevant Laws

The defendants were charged under several federal laws, most prominently 18 U.S.C. § 951, a law related to the registration of foreign agents in the United States, and 18 U.S.C. § 371, conspiracy to commit an offense against or defraud the United States. These laws carry punishments in the form of fines and significant prison sentences. Defendant Wang has allegedly worked as an agent of the PRC in the United States by informing on the different parties mentioned in the indictment. The defendants from the MSS have allegedly conspired with Wang in the commission of “overt acts” of surveilling and informing on various dissidents. (Indictment at 20–21.) Within the scope of those charges, the defendants were charged under 18 U.S.C. § 1028, involving the criminal use of someone’s identification, and 18 U.S.C. § 1001, making false statements to federal law enforcement. (Indictment at 21–23.) An action of criminal forfeiture, under 18 U.S.C. § 982, has also been opened upon Wang’s property, should he be found guilty of the other offenses. (Indictment at 23.)

Current Status

Defendant Wang was arrested on separate charges in March 2022. He will continue to be held in custody because of the charges in the May indictment. The other defendants (the members of the MSS) are still considered at-large; however, arrest warrants were contemporaneously issued with the indictment. (Press Release.)

About this Item

Title
United States: US Citizen and Four Chinese Citizens Indicted on Espionage and Transnational Repression-Related Charges
Online Format
web page

Rights & Access

Publications of the Library of Congress are works of the United States Government as defined in the United States Code 17 U.S.C. §105 and therefore are not subject to copyright and are free to use and reuse.  The Library of Congress has no objection to the international use and reuse of Library U.S. Government works on loc.gov. These works are also available for worldwide use and reuse under CC0 1.0 Universal. 

More about Copyright and other Restrictions.

For guidance about compiling full citations consult Citing Primary Sources.

Credit Line: Law Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

United States: US Citizen and Four Chinese Citizens Indicted on Espionage and Transnational Repression-Related Charges. 2022. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-06-15/united-states-us-citizen-and-four-chinese-citizens-indicted-on-espionage-and-transnational-repression-related-charges/.

APA citation style:

(2022) United States: US Citizen and Four Chinese Citizens Indicted on Espionage and Transnational Repression-Related Charges. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-06-15/united-states-us-citizen-and-four-chinese-citizens-indicted-on-espionage-and-transnational-repression-related-charges/.

MLA citation style:

United States: US Citizen and Four Chinese Citizens Indicted on Espionage and Transnational Repression-Related Charges. 2022. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-06-15/united-states-us-citizen-and-four-chinese-citizens-indicted-on-espionage-and-transnational-repression-related-charges/>.

More Articles like this