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Federal authorities arrested a U.S. citizen on Tuesday accused of spying for the Chinese government by coordinating with Chinese Communist Party officials to share information on political dissidents in Boston, Massachusetts, from 2018 to 2022.
Litang Liang has been indicted by a grand jury for acting as an agent of a foreign government without notice to the U.S. attorney general, according to court documents reported by the Boston Globe.
Liang, 63, allegedly spent four years spying on local Chinese communities around Boston neighborhoods by turning over lists of names and photographs to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — and made attempts to organize rallies supporting Taiwan’s reunification with mainland China and counter-protests against pro-democracy dissidents.
“Liang communicated with [People’s Republic of China] government officials — knowing them to be PRC government officials — in several ways,” the indictment alleges. “These included telephone calls and messaging using the social media application WeChat,” a PRC-based communication app that stores all messages on servers outside the United States.
The affidavit alleges instances involving Liang reporting a student who destroyed a PRC flag to Chinese officials, inquiring about the “political standing” of a local lawyer to place the professional on a “blacklist,” and other informant activity about local Chinese family associations in New England and New York.
Liang has also been accused of coordinating with United Front Work Department, a CCP committee that targets agencies, social organizations, businesses, universities, research institutes, and individuals to further China’s goal, court documents say.
Frances Hui, policy and advocacy coordinator for the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, organized a rally in 2019 opposing the government of Hong Kong’s proposed bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
Hiu said Liang’s actions over the past years were “definitely nerve-wracking to just learn all about what he has done in the past years, and especially to the people that participated in the rally that I organized in August of 2019.”
“I saw all of these threats coming through the WeChat groups that we were overseeing,” Hui told NBC10 Boston on Tuesday. “There were gun threats and people threatening to bring guns — like firearms — to the rallies, and to shoot me, even.”
Hui urged dissidents from Hong Kong to pay attention to the alleged organized spy activity.
“I think that we just have to wake up to this and realize that this is the trans-national repression that we are facing under China’s extensive rule.”
Liang faces up to 15 years in prison.