OFAC-Designated Hizballah Financier and Eight Associates Charged with Multiple Crimes Arising Out of Scheme to Evade Terrorism-Related Sanctions
Today, a complaint was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn charging 34 officers of the national police of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) – with harassing Chinese nationals residing in the New York metropolitan area and elsewhere in the United States. The defendants allegedly perpetrated transnational repression schemes targeting U.S. residents whose political views and actions are disfavored by the PRC government, such as advocating for democracy in the PRC. All the defendants are believed to reside in the PRC, and they remain at large.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s National Security Division; Kurt Ronnow, Acting Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Counterintelligence Division (FBI), and David Sundberg, Assistant Director-in-Charge, FBI, announced the
“As alleged, the Chinese government deploys an elite task force of its national police—the 912 Special Project Working Group—as a troll farm to attack Chinese dissidents in our country for exercising free speech in a manner that the PRC government disfavors, and spread disinformation and propaganda to sow divisions within the United States,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “I commend the investigative team for comprehensively revealing the insidiousness of a state-directed criminal scheme directed at residents of the United States.”
“These cases demonstrate the lengths the PRC government will go to silence and harass U.S. persons who exercise their fundamental rights to speak out against PRC oppression, including by unlawfully exploiting a U.S.-based technology company,” stated Assistant Attorney General Olsen. “These actions violate our laws and are an affront to our democratic values and basic human rights.”
“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 to undermine confidence in our democratic processes and, in another, by suppressing U.S. video conferencing users’ free speech,” stated FBI Acting Assistant Director Ronnow. “We aren’t going to tolerate CCP repression – its efforts to threaten, harass, and intimidate people – here in the United States. The FBI will continue to confront the Chinese government’s efforts to violate our laws and repress the rights and freedoms of people in our country.”
“These cases demonstrate that the Chinese Communist Party, once again, attempted to intimidate, harass, and suppress Chinese dissidents in the United States,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sundberg. “In the U.S., the freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, and the FBI will work tirelessly to defend everyone's right to speak freely without fear of retribution from the CCP. These complex investigations revealed an MPS-wide effort to repress individuals by using the U.S. communications platform and fake social media accounts to censor political and religious speech.”
As alleged, the officers are or were assigned to a task force called the “912 Special Project Working Group” (the Group) and worked out of an MPS facility in Beijing. The purpose of the Group is to influence and shape public perceptions of the PRC government, the CCP, and its leaders in the United States and around the world. The Group carries out this mission by using a host of accounts created under false names on multiple social media platforms to promote narratives that portray the PRC government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in a favorable light, while criticizing and attacking their perceived adversaries, including the United States, and Chines pro-democracy activists located throughout the world, including in the United States. As alleged, the defendants carried out this mission in part through a campaign of threats, harassment and intimidation directed at critics of the PRC government and the CCP in the United States and around the world.
The complaint alleges that members of the Group created thousands of fake online personas on social media sites, including Twitter, to target Chinese democracy activists and critics of the CCP through online harassment and threats. These online personas also disseminate official PRC government propaganda and narratives to counter and overwhelm the critical speech of the Chinese activists. The topics of the propaganda and official narratives are directed by MPS headquarters, and have included the advantages of the PRC’s CCP-dominated political system over democracy, U.S. domestic and foreign policy, human rights issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang Province, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic.
As further alleged, the investigation has obtained a policy guide issued to new Group members for detailing how to create and maintain fake social media accounts through temporary email addresses; posting official PRC government content; and interacting with other online users to avoid the appearance that the Group accounts are “flooding” a given social media platform.
Some of these online personas purport to be U.S. persons, giving U.S. users of social media platforms the false impression that individuals located in the United States advocate positions and policies favored by the PRC government and the CCP. The Group tracks the performance of the MPS officers assigned to the Group and rewards Group members who successfully operate multiple online personas without detection by the social media companies who host the platforms or by other users of the platforms.
The investigation has also uncovered official MPS directions to Group members to compose articles and videos based on certain themes targeting, for example, the activities of Chinese pro-democracy activists located abroad or the policies of the U.S. government. As alleged, the Group executed a standing order from MPS headquarters to harass a well-known critic of the PRC government and the CCP (“Victim-1”) by using a host of Group-controlled social media accounts to, among other things, make death threats and demand that U.S. authorities arrest Victim-1.
In addition, Group members took repeated affirmative actions to have Chinese dissidents and their meetings interfered with on the platform of Company-1. For example, Group members disrupted a pro-democracy activist’s efforts to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre through a videoconference meeting by posting threats against the participants through the platform’s chat function. In another Company-1 videoconference on the topic of countering communism organized by a Chinese pro-democracy activist, Group members flooded the videoconference and drowned out the meeting with loud music and vulgar screams and threats directed at the pro-democracy participants.
The charges in the complaint are allegations, and the
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section. Assistant United States
The FBI has created a website for victims to report efforts by foreign governments to stalk, intimidate, or assault people in the United States. If you believe that you are or have been a victim of transnational repression, please visit https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/counterintelligence/transnational-repression.
BAI YUNPENG (白云鹏)
CHEN ZHICHEN (陈之琛)
GAO CAINAN (高彩楠)
GAO HONGTING (高宏亭)
HU XIAOHUI (呼啸慧)
HUANG CHUNHUI (黄春晖)
JIN YI (金乙)
JU QIANG (居强)
LI BOLUN (李博伦)
LI XUAN (李轩)
LI XUEYANG (李雪阳)
LI ZHEFENG (李哲峰)
LIANG SHUANG (梁爽)
LIN YUQIONG (林玉琼) (also known as “Lin Huishan (林慧姗),”)
LIU ZHAOXI (刘朝夕)
MIAO SHIHUI (苗世辉)
SHI LIANGTIAN (史粮田)
SONG YANG (I) (宋杨)
SONG YANG (II) (宋阳)
TAN JINYAN (覃金燕)
WANG CHUNJIE (王春杰)
WANG SHIPENG (王士朋)
WEN JIANXUN (温建勋)
XI SHUO (西硕)
XI YUE (袭岳) (also known as “Qi Dong (齐栋),”)
XU YANAN (徐亚楠)
Age: 32 or 33
XU ZHEN (徐震)
XUE WENFENG (薛文峰) (also known as “Feng Xu (徐丰),”)
YANG DALIN (杨大林)
YANG MIAO (杨淼)
Age: 30 or 31
YIN YINA (尹贻娜)
YU MIAO (余苗)
Age: 38 or 39
ZHANG DI (张迪)
ZHOU GUOQIANG (周国强)
Danielle Blustein Hass
U.S. Attorney's Office