A U.S. citizen and four Chinese intelligence officers have been charged with spying on Chinese dissidents, human rights leaders and pro-democracy activists residing in the United States, the Department of Justice said on Wednesday.
The indictment accuses Wang Shujun, of Queens, New York, of using his status within Chinese diaspora and dissident communities to collect information about activists on behalf of China's Ministry of State Security (MSS).
Wang, 73, was arrested on March 16 and will be arraigned at a later date, the Justice Department said. The four MSS officials, who the department named as Feng He, Jie Ji, Ming Li and Keqing Lu, are still at large, it added. The indictment was unsealed on Tuesday in a federal court in Brooklyn.
"Today's indictment exposes and disrupts an operation by the PRC (People's Republic of China) that threatens the safety and freedom of Chinese nationals residing in the United States on account of their pro-democracy beliefs and speech," U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said.
Representatives for Wang were not immediately reachable for comment.
"The so-called accusations made by the U.S. is a pure fabrication," the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., said in a written statement provided to Reuters.
"We urge the U.S. side to conduct a fair and lawful investigation, properly handle relevant cases, and safeguard the legal rights of the Chinese citizens involved."
Wang has provided information to the MSS since at least 2011, the indictment alleges. The MSS officials directed Wang to target Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, advocates for Taiwanese independence and Uyghur and Tibetan activists, it says.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub and Susan Heavey; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Kenneth Maxwell)