Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have charged a man believed to be a member of China’s secret police service with trying to undermine the campaign of a Chinese American candidate for Congress on Long Island.
The criminal complaint is one of several cases that are set to be announced by the Justice Department on Wednesday afternoon and that will outline efforts by U.S.- and China-based agents of Chinese police services to harass and discredit critics of China’s government, a person familiar with the cases said.
Federal prosecutors say Qiming Lin — identified in the court filings as a member of the Chinese security apparatus who is based in China — tried to gather damaging information on the congressional candidate, who had been a student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and who has continued to criticize the Chinese government.
The candidate was not named in the complaint, but matches the description of Yan Xiong, who last fall announced his candidacy for a U.S. House of Representatives seat from Long Island. The person familiar with the cases confirmed Mr. Yan’s identity. Mr. Yan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, served in the U.S. military and in 2015 took part in pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, according to the complaint.
A representative of Mr. Yan’s campaign did not immediately provide comment on the charges.
Prosecutors say that Mr. Lin engaged a private investigator last fall to dig up — or, failing that, to manufacture — compromising information about Mr. Yan, such as an affair or unpaid taxes, ahead of the June primary election.
The private investigator, however, was an F.B.I. source and, according to the complaint, kept the authorities apprised of the efforts.
The charges are the latest in a series of Justice Department cases that center on efforts by the Chinese government to infiltrate the U.S. and monitor and harass dissidents or communities that are considered political opponents of China. In 2015, the Obama administration warned Beijing about the presence of Chinese government agents in the U.S. who were mounting harassment campaigns against Chinese expatriates.
U.S.-China relations, which have grown increasingly adversarial in recent years, are particularly strained at the moment because of China’s strong bond with Russia. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, senior Biden administration officials pleaded with China to dissuade Russia from the invasion — but the U.S. efforts were rebuffed, The Times reported last month.