Two Chinese nationals allegedly acting as agents for the Chinese government were apprehended in the United States following an undercover operation and were charged with trying to damage and topple an anti-communist Chinese religious group.
US charges two over China-backed plot against Falun Gong https://t.co/Rk9UhxXN4v
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 27, 2023
Authorities in Los Angeles arrested 70-year-old John Chen and 43-year-old Lin Feng on May 26th, where they were indicted for planning to revoke the tax-exempt status of the New York-based Falun Gong spiritual movement in an attempt to further undermine the exiled group.
The two Chinese nationals were both born in China but lived in Los Angeles at the time of their arrest. Chen is a US citizen, while Feng was described as a “lawful permanent resident.” They’re facing charges of being unregistered agents of a foreign government, practicing money laundering, and bribing public officials.
Two Los Angeles residents were arrested for allegedly taking part in a Beijing-directed scheme to disrupt U.S.-based practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned in China for its criticism of the Chinese government https://t.co/gO1Z5rduVi pic.twitter.com/e5yE39uO1q
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 27, 2023
Chen and Feng were caught after they initially urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to revoke Falun Gong’s non-profit tax status. Chen also described the organization as a “gigantic mega cult” in his whistleblower complaint that he filed to the tax agency last February, echoing the language used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against the group.
After filing their complaint, an undercover police officer posed as an official for the IRS. According to prosecutors handling their case, Chen met with the officer at a restaurant north of New York City on May 14th.
Chen approached the officer to ensure that the agency would act on their complaint while communicating with his accomplice Feng on the progress of their plot. The undercover officer was offered a $50,000 bribe and was given $5,000 as a down payment, with the condition that the IRS conduct an audit on the organization.
Two Chinese agents were charged in New York for attempting to bribe a public official as part of a campaign against Falun Gong practitioners.
Read the full story here: https://t.co/IfO0mZdAbT pic.twitter.com/aRLbTxkTWB
— Falun Gong Information Center (@FalunInfoCtr) June 3, 2023
Investigators wiretapped phone calls where Chen and Feng talked about the instructions they allegedly received from Beijing to undermine the religious group. The undercover officer also recorded multiple conversations with Chen during their meetings.
In one recording, Chen referred to Chinese officials as akin to “blood brothers.” In another recording, Chen said the Chinese government would be “very generous” in rewarding the help of the undercover officer in revoking Falun Gong’s tax-exempt status.
After receiving a fake IRS letterhead from the undercover officer, stating that they opened a case on the Falun Gong, Chen communicated this news to Feng in a wiretapped phone call, discussing plans to update the Chinese government.
Falun Gong initially enjoyed support from the Chinese Communist Party, but relations began to sour when state-run media began to show negative coverage of the group. The Chinese government banned the group in 1999 after 10,000 religious movement members gathered in the central government compound in Beijing to demand legal recognition.
It was the spring of 1999. #China was transforming. A cultural renaissance inspired by an ancient spiritual practice was flourishing, signaling a healthier and more hopeful future for the Chinese people.
Then, came April 25th.
Read more: https://t.co/UoQej9meSR pic.twitter.com/j9g9ll2YcO
— Falun Gong Information Center (@FalunInfoCtr) April 25, 2022
The religious group is known for its ties with Shen Yun, a touring traditional Chinese performing arts group. It’s also notorious for its connections with The Epoch Times, a far-right, anti-communist media outlet that spread pro-Trump messages and vaccine misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.