The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) is charging 40 members of China’s national police with crimes related to a coordinated campaign of targeted harassment of U.S. residents.
Forty officers of China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and two employees of the Cyberspace Administration of China conspired to transmit interstate threats and otherwise harass dissidents and pro-democracy activists living in the United States and elsewhere, according to DOJ documents unsealed on April 17. Forty-four defendants were charged in total.
The MPS officers are part of an elite task force in China called the “912 Special Project Working Group,” referred to in DOJ documents simply as “the Group.”
The alleged purpose of the Group is to target and silence Chinese dissidents on a global scale.
“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,” Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
CCP Targeting US Residents
The defendants allegedly carried out highly coordinated transnational repression schemes targeting U.S. residents whose political views are considered anathema by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a single-party state.
As part of this effort, officers from the Group created and used thousands of fake social media accounts across multiple U.S.-owned platforms, including Twitter, to harass and intimidate dissidents and advocates for democratic processes in China.
Much of the activities took place on a platform created and operated by a U.S. company, referred to in DOJ documents simply as “Company-1.”
The Group also allegedly worked with an employee in Company-1 to leverage the thousands of phony social media accounts for harassment and outright threats against those critical of the CCP.
The officers also sought to crash online video conferences on the platform, filling chats with threats and obscenities, and to get anti-communist events banned from social media.