The recent announcement of the unsealing of the indictment, in a Brooklyn federal court on May 17, against naturalized U.S. citizen, Wang Shujun and four Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) officers disrupted international espionage and transnational repression scheme designed to silence opposition to China. Wang is believed to have been actively assisting the MSS from 2005 until his arrest in March 2022.

While Wang is in federal custody, the four MSS officers are not, and are believed to be in China at this time. These individuals are identified in Department of Justice documents as “Feng He, aka Boss He, of Guangdong; Jie Ji, of Qingdao; Ming Li, aka Elder Tang and Little Li, of Guangdong; and Keqing Lu aka Boss Lu, of Qingdao.” While the indictment itself remains sealed, the March 8 criminal complaint is available for perusal.

An inspection of the timeline of Wang’s activities would lead one to deduce that Wang came to the U.S. initially as a visiting scholar and stayed as many others do to continue his professorial work, and he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2003. In 2006 Wang was a founder of the Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang Memorial Foundation, located in New York – an organization whose members were predominately dissidents of China’s Communist Party.

The modus operandi used by Wang was revealed to the FBI when they successfully ran a sting against him in August 2021.

Criminal complaint concerning Wang’s activities

The court documents begin the tale of his subterfuge in 2005, though do not provide the means by which Wang was recruited, or if he had been dispatched, and after cementing the Memorial Foundation, activated by the MSS. We do, however, learn of the modus operandi used by the MSS to communicate, task, and meet with Wang over the course of his many years of cooperation.

From January 2016 onward, Wang was actively collecting information on dissidents within the United States in the New York area, providing area knowledge and analysis on the perception of Chinese President Xi by the U.S. and the likelihood of protests when/if Xi visited the U.S. In addition, he reported on pro-democracy groups, as well as those organizations and individuals who supported Taiwan.

His actions were not dissimilar to that of New York Police Officer, Baimadajie Angwang (11th Precinct – Queens) who was arrested on September 21, 2020. He too was charged with being a Chinese asset, providing information on dissidents in the United States, specifically the New York area.

Wang is directly tied to the MSS actions surrounding the collection of information on a very wealthy Hong Kong businessman and dissident, Jimmy Lai. Lai who ran the media outlet “Apple Daily” was arrested in April 2020 and in May 2020 was sentenced to separate concurrent jail sentences of 12 and 8 months. Wang would describe himself as a good, close personal friend of Lai. Furthermore, evidencing his collaboration with the MSS, Wang apparently submitted an expense reimbursement request to the MSS for $4,000 to cover a meal cost for Wang and Lai’s families when Lai made a trip on behalf of the MSS to Hong Kong with the tasking requirement of collecting information on Lai.

In August 2017 Wang was interviewed by the FBI concerning contact with the MSS or any other PRC state security services, he denied any such contact. Wang went so far as to espouse his concerted efforts to avoid contact except when visa support was needed.

In April 2019 the U.S. Customs and Border Protection interviewed Wang in secondary at JFK International Airport, New York. During this interview, Wang made false statements concerning his relationship with the Chinese government and MSS entities. During the CBP’s inspection of Wang’s belongings, the CPB found a number of incriminating documents.

The inspectors found a list of 64 individuals identified as “pro-democracy activists” in the United States and information about Lai. They also found a handwritten note in Chinese, which contained meeting instructions for a meeting between Wang and Feng He aka Boss He to take place in Qingdao, China. In an example of an asset doing himself in, they also found a black address book in which multiple English and Chinese language entries were made with respect to the four indicted MSS officers. Given there were no telephone number entries, the FBI speculates that other means were used to communicate.

Indeed, Wang did use commercial email as a form of electronic dead drop for passing information to the MSS. Wang would create emails and leave them in draft form and individuals with access to the email account would log in and read the content.

The FBI sealed their case concerning Wang’s activities when they masterfully activated a sting operation against him which resulted in the harvesting of direct evidence of this MSS activities.

The FBI stings Wang

In July 2021, the FBI began its endgame with respect to Wang (now 72 years of age) and his activities. Lai had been incarcerated, the information obtained via the CBP had been processed and ample time to put time and distance between the 2017 and 2019 US government interaction had passed. The FBI suited up one of their own as a member of the PRC MSS and knocked on Wang’s door.

The undercover special agent provided bonafides saying he was sent by the Boss, which he clarified to mean Boss He to deliver a message to Wang. Once bonafides were established, Wang invited the special agent into his home and the FBI’s hook was set. The ensuing conversation cemented Wang’s collaboration with both Boss He and with Ji, with the special agent dropping the “message” on Wang, “Wang was under investigation by the FBI and that WANG’s electronic communications may have been monitored.”

Wang explained that in 2005 he began writing “diaries” (the draft emails which others would log in and read) making two to three entries a month. Wang asked the special agent how he could securely delete these diaries. The special agent was accommodating – Wang provided the email names and log-in credentials for each of the accounts he used with the MSS. He noted that he used different accounts for the officers from Qingdao and Guangdong. Wang went on to request assistance in deleting information from his electronic devices, including his laptop.

FBI closes the book

On August 11, 2021, the FBI approached Wang and interviewed him once again. At first, Wang denied any contact with the MSS, including the undercover special agent who he described as an air conditioner repairman. He eventually came around and admitted to assisting the MSS, identifying the four MSS officers included in the indictment. Wang was arrested in March 2022.

China’s not letting up

In July 2021, multiple individuals were indicted for efforts that targeted dissidents and pro-democracy individuals within the Chinese diaspora in New York.

It is important to put the Wang case into the context of the substantive efforts of China to operate within the United States both to influence public opinion, as well as silence those with dissenting views. In 2014 China’s President Xi Jinping ordered the creation of “Operation Fox Hunt” (aka “Operation Skynet), which FBI Director Wray noted, “China describes Fox Hunt as some kind of international anti-corruption campaign. It is not. Instead, Fox Hunt is a sweeping bid by Xi to target Chinese nationals who he sees as threats and who live outside of China, across the world. We’re talking about political rivals, dissidents, and critics seeking to expose China’s extensive human rights violations.”

Wang is just the most recent revelation of China’s clandestine activities in the United States, and as noted by Wray in January of this year, “Today, we in the United States and the Western world find ourselves in a very different struggle against another global adversary – the Chinese Communist Party.”

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of