Shujun Wang used his position as a ‘pro-democracy’ individual to collect information on Chinese dissidents to be passed on to MSS.
New Delhi: In a glaring example of how deeply the Chinese intelligence agency, Ministry of State Security (MSS), has infiltrated into the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in a counter espionage operation, arrested a Chinese national Shujun Wang, 73, from New York, who after coming to the US to escape “repression” in 1994, became a well-known scholar, got naturalised citizenship of the US in 2003, but for more than 17 years, from 2005 till the time of his arrest in March 2022, spied for the MSS and used his position as a “pro-democracy” individual to collect information on Chinese dissidents which was then passed on to the MSS.
These recent revelations have come as a concern for relevant agencies in India as the MSS, along with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, are known to work jointly for years now as far as undermining Indian interests are concerned.
Wang is among the five individuals who were named in documents that were filed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) in a Brooklyn court on Tuesday. The other four—Feng He aka Boss He of Guangdong, Jie Ji of Qingdao, Ming Li aka Elder Tang of Guangdong and Keqing Lu aka Boss Lu of Qingdao, who are China-based MSS officials and handlers of Wang—are still at large.
Wang is accused of providing MSS with information related to Uyghur supporters of the East Turkestan independence movement, Tibetan supporters of the Tibetan independence movement, adherents of the Falun Gong, members of the Chinese democracy movement and advocates for the Taiwan independence movement, which China refers to as “the five poisons” that threaten the stability of China and Communist Party.
Wang, who was staying in Flushing, New York, was released on a bond of $300,000 later.
He has been put under electronic monitoring and cannot move beyond New York and Connecticut. He is also not allowed to make any contact with People’s Republic of China locations or its consulates.
Official court records accessed by The Sunday Guardian reveal that Wang, who was a Professor at Qingdao College of Social Sciences, came to the US in 1994 as a visiting scholar for a two-year term at a university in New York City.
In 1996, he was granted an EB-1 permanent worker visa for “outstanding professors”. In 2003, he was granted permanent resident status and became a naturalized American citizen.
Later, in 2006, he along with other members of the Chinese diaspora, founded the “Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang Memorial Foundation” also known as the “Memorial Foundation”, to propagate the ideas of Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, two former leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), who wanted political and economic reforms within China, supported the students at Tiananmen square protests, but were politically purged by the CCP.
Many of the Memorial Foundation’s directors are well-known pro-democracy dissidents who oppose the current Chinese government.
Wang went on to become the Secretary General of the Memorial Foundation and participated in multiple PRC dissident and pro-democracy communities in the US.
However, as per FBI, Wang, all this while, was acting as an agent of the PRC government and using his position with the Memorial Foundation and within the Chinese diaspora community in the New York area to collect information about US-based dissidents and to pass that information to the PRC government. One pro-democracy activist, whom Wang provided information about, was later arrested by PRC authorities.
As per court record, which identifies the arrested activists as “Hong Kong democracy activist” and “dissident no 1”, was arrested by the Chinese officials on 18 April 2020 for planning to organize a pro democracy rally in Honk Kong.
On 28 May 2021, Hong Kong Dissident-1 received two concurrent jail sentences of 18 months in prison for “inciting people to participate in an unlawful assembly” and for “organizing an unlawful assembly”.
The court documents describe him as–“Hong Kong Dissident -1 is a well-known solicitor and politician in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Dissident #1 is the former chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the former chairman of the Democratic Party and a former member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong.” Wang, in his conversation with his handlers, told them how he had gained the information of the politician who would discuss sensitive matters with him. The Sunday Guardian can confirm that the name of the arrested activist is the 83-year-old Martin Lee.
The FBI also found Wang in possession of a hand-written document with the names and telephone numbers of approximately 64 pro-democracy activists, many of whom were located in the United States. The FBI, in its complaint against Wang, stated that in November 2016, Wang reported to an MSS agent about a PRC dissident who had contacts with Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians and who had made plans to attend an upcoming Memorial Foundation meeting in New York.
Wang has also been accused of trying to derail the US congressional candidacy of an American military veteran, Yan Xiong, who was a pro-democracy student leader in the 1989 demonstration in Beijing at Tiananmen Square. Wang allegedly hired a private investigator to dig up information on the US congressional candidate, then to manufacture derogatory information if nothing could be found and as a last resort, to physically attack the military veteran to prevent him from becoming a legislator. If no such information could be found, Wang told the investigator to “fabricate something,” while giving an example of Beijing in which a prominent pianist was arrested after being found in the company of a prostitute. Wang also conspired to pay a private investigator from New York to bribe an Internal Revenue Service employee so that they could obtain the tax returns of a pro-democracy activist, who is an artist in the US, and expose any potential liabilities with the documents to discredit him.
One of the handlers of Wang, allegedly posed as an art dealer pretending to be interested in purchasing work from the activist and then secretly installed surveillance cameras and GPS devices in his car and workplace, the footage of which was directly streamed to MSS office in China. They also had plans to plant surveillance equipment on two other dissidents who had depicted the PRC President Xi Jinping as a coronavirus molecule.
Wang communicated and provided information to the MSS, including to his four handlers by using encrypted messaging applications and emails, as well as during face-to-face meetings in the PRC. Wang would often memorize the information he collected in email “diaries” to be accessed by the MSS. A search of Wang’s residence revealed approximately 163 “diary” entries.
Indian officials said that the primary focus of the MSS is to influence the foreign policies of other countries for which it works hard to obtain information on political, economic and security policies and military, scientific and technical information of value to the PRC. As per the FBI, one of the ways the MSS collects information is through clandestine and covert human source operations. The MSS recruits, among others, current and former Chinese nationals living outside China, including in the United States, to serve as assets.