Two suspects have been charged with crimes related to an operation to revoke the Falun Gong organization’s tax-exempt status in the United States.
US authorities have arrested two suspected Chinese government agents in connection with an alleged plot by Beijing against the Exiled Anti-Communist Falun Gong spiritual movement.
China banned the largely meditation-based Falun Gong in 1999 after 10,000 members showed up at central leadership headquarters in Beijing in silent protest.
THE group called for people to renounce the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
John Chen and Lin Feng were charged in an unsealed indictment on Friday with conspiring to revoke the tax-exempt status of a New York-based Falun Gong organization and paying bribes. wine to an undercover policeman posing as a US tax official.
Chen, a 70-year-old U.S. citizen, and Feng, a 43-year-old lawful permanent resident, are charged with acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government, bribing a public official and conspiracy to to commit international money laundering.
Both Chen and Feng were born in China but now live in the Los Angeles area where they were arrested on Friday. Information about a first court appearance or lawyers who might speak on their behalf was not immediately available.
Seeking to undermine Falun Gong In the United States, according to federal prosecutors, Chen and Feng urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to revoke the organization’s nonprofit tax status. In a complaint filed by a whistleblower with the tax agency in February, Chen described Falun Gong as a “gigantic mega-cult” – echoing the language used by the Chinese government to describe the movement.
Chen and Feng then turned to the undercover agent to make sure the IRS followed through on the complaint, offering a $50,000 payout — and handing over $5,000 in cash as a deposit — if the tax agency was conducting an audit, prosecutors said.
The plainclothes police officer posing as the tax official recorded several conversations with Chen, and investigators obtained a wiretap to record phone calls in which Chen and Feng discussed the instructions they allegedly received. from Chinese government officials, prosecutors said.
In a recording, prosecutors said Chen said Beijing would be “very generous” in rewarding the undercover agent’s help in cracking down on Falun Gong’s nonprofit status.
Chen met the officer at a restaurant in upstate New York on May 14, prosecutors said. A few days later, the officer sent Chen a letter on a fake IRS letterhead stating that the agency had opened a file on Falun Gong, prosecutors said. Chen passed the news to Feng in a tapped phone conversation, saying he planned to update Chinese government officials on their progress, prosecutors said.
Messages seeking comment have been left with the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC and the Falun Gong movement.
The US Department of Justice has launched a series of lawsuits in recent years to disrupt China’s efforts to identify, locate and silence pro-democracy activists in the US and others who openly criticize Beijing’s policies.
Such practices by foreign governments are known as “transnational repression”.
“The Chinese government has once again tried, unsuccessfully, to target critics of the [People’s Republic of China] here in the United States,” Attorney General Merrick B Garland said in a statement Friday.
The United States “will continue to investigate, disrupt and prosecute” China’s efforts to “silence its critics and expand its regime’s reach on American soil”, he said.
The charges against Chen and Feng come a month after federal agents arrested two New York residents suspected of operating a Chinese “secret police station” in Manhattan’s Chinatown.