Two alleged Chinese spies have been charged in a New York federal court for trying to “obstruct, influence and impede” an ongoing investigation that involves the Chinese technology and communications firm Huawei.
A criminal complaint unsealed in a federal court stated the accused intelligence officers paid $61,000 in bitcoin for details of the US prosecution strategy against Huawei. Unfortunately for the accused, the recipient of the payment was an American double agent working for the FBI.
The two accused Chinese intelligence officers, Guochun He, also known as “Jacky He,” and Zheng Wang, also known as “Zen Wang”, remain at large. The complaint charged the two defendants were intelligence officers of the People’s Republic of China and were said to be “conducting foreign intelligence operations targeting the United States, on behalf of the PRC government.”
The federal complaint charges that the Chinese attempt began in 2019, when Wang and He repeatedly asked the undercover FBI employee to steal confidential information about the criminal prosecution of the company (Huawei is not named in the complaint), ultimately paying the bribe noted above.
In October 2021, the FBI’s double agent sent the two spies a single page from an internal strategy document purported to be from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. It discussed plans to arrest two employees from the Chinese company. American officials have indicated the information provided to the Chinese was fabricated.
One senior federal official, Matthew Olsen, Assistant Attorney-General for National Security, noted for the record that the alleged actions of Chinese spies “must be called out for what they are: an extraordinary intervention by agents of a foreign government to interfere with the integrity of the US criminal justice system, compromise a US government employee, and obstruct the enforcement of American law to benefit a PRC-based commercial enterprise.”
Not the first problem for Huawei and surely not the last
Back in 2018, Huawei was indicted for allegedly misleading HSBC and other banks about its business relationships in Iran, which is subject to American sanctions. In 2020, other charges were added to the Huawei case, including for conspiring to obtain trade secrets from six American technology companies as well as assisting the government of Iran to track protesters during anti-government demonstrations in 2009. The company has pleaded not guilty.
Other new cases announced
Further increasing bilateral tension between Washington and Beijing over Chinese espionage activities, US officials have brought two other cases against China over the past week.
One indictment charged that between 2008 and 2018, four Chinese defendants operating in New Jersey used the cover of a purported academic institute based in Qingdao, China, to recruit individuals in the US to “further the PRC’s intelligence mission.” Attempts were made to gain access to sensitive fingerprint technology and seek assistance in stopping protests criticizing the Chinese government in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympics.
In another case, criminal charges were brought against seven individuals – six Chinese citizens and one US citizen – for trying to forcibly repatriate a Chinese citizen living in the US, accused of embezzling funds by China, as part of the Chinese government’s “Operation Fox Hunt,” which targets overseas citizens facing prosecution in China.
All but two of the defendants remain at large.
In response to the indictment, the South China Morning Post reported that Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that “Chinese law enforcement authorities strictly abide by international law” in its efforts to repatriate fugitives and fight crimes and that “the US has been stonewalling China’s requests in recent years for cooperation on repatriating fugitives.”