According to NTD, documents the DoJ released this week revealed that 40 officials from China's Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and two individuals from the Cyberspace Administration of China collaborated to carry out harassment against dissidents and pro-democracy activists residing in the United States and other parts of the world. The officials also plotted to transmit interstate threats as part of their campaign, the news outlet reported.
As per the DoJ documents, the MPS officers involved in the harassment campaign belong to a specialized task force in China called the "912 Special Project Working Group," which is commonly referred to as "the Group." According to the DoJ, the Group's purported objective is to silence Chinese dissidents on an international level through targeting and harassment tactics.
“The Chinese government deploys an elite task force of its national police—the 912 Special Project Working Group—as a troll farm to attack Chinese dissidents in our country for exercising free speech that the [Chinese communist] government disfavors, and spread disinformation and propaganda to sow divisions within the United States,” noted U.S. Attorney Breon Peace during a news conference.
The defendants are accused of executing sophisticated and coordinated transnational repression operations that aimed to target U.S. residents with political beliefs that are regarded as unacceptable by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which governs China as a one-party state.
To accomplish their objective, the Group's officers reportedly established and utilized several fake social media profiles across various U.S.-based platforms, including Twitter, with the intent of intimidating and harassing Chinese dissidents and supporters of democratic practices in China. A large portion of the operation was conducted on a platform owned and managed by a U.S. company, referred to as "Company-1" in the DoJ documents, NTD reported.
The Group allegedly collaborated with an employee at Company-1 to use the fake social media accounts to launch harassment and overt threats against individuals who were critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The officers also reportedly sought to disrupt online video conferences hosted on the platform by flooding the chats with obscenities and threats. Additionally, they allegedly attempted to ban anti-communist events from social media platforms.
“China’s Ministry of Public Security used operatives to target people of Chinese descent who had the courage to speak out against the Chinese Communist Party—in one case by covertly spreading propaganda to undermine confidence in our democratic processes and, in another, by suppressing U.S. video conferencing users’ free speech,” FBI Acting Assistant Director Kurt Ronnow said at the news conference.
“We aren’t going to tolerate CCP repression—its efforts to threaten, harass, and intimidate people—here in the United States. The FBI will continue to confront the Chinese government’s efforts to violate our laws and repress the rights and freedoms of people in our country.”
The Chinese operation went further than simply seeking to silence the voices of dissidents.
The DoJ documents indicate that the officers from the Group also utilized U.S. social media platforms to spread propaganda and disinformation in an effort to destabilize U.S. national security and disrupt election integrity. The Group distributed content that asserted American democracy was bound to fail, propagated false information that the United States created Covid-19, and promoted misleading information about U.S. elections, said the news report.
The accused individuals also made efforts to enlist American citizens as unwitting operatives of the Chinese regime by coaxing them to disseminate the propaganda online, thereby legitimizing the CCP's false assertions, the outlet noted.
“These cases demonstrate the lengths the [Chinese] government will go to silence and harass U.S. persons who exercise their fundamental rights to speak out against [its] oppression, including by unlawfully exploiting a U.S.-based technology company,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen declared.
“These actions violate our laws and are an affront to our democratic values and basic human rights," he added.