Chinese cyber police officers charged in U.S. for harassment and spreading disinformation

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A complaint was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn on Monday that charged 34 officers of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) national police — the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) — with harassing Chinese nationals residing in Brooklyn and elsewhere in the United States.

The defendants are allegedly involved in transnational repression schemes targeting U.S. residents whose political views and actions are disfavored by the PRC government, such as advocating for democracy in the PRC. The accused officers, believed to reside in the PRC, remain at large.

“As alleged, 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 in a manner that the PRC government disfavors, and spread disinformation and propaganda to sow divisions within the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace.

Prosecutors claim that PRC deployed an elite task force known as the “912 Special Project Working Group” to operate as a troll farm. This group targeted Chinese dissidents living in the U.S., disseminated disinformation, and sought to create divisions within the country.

The complaint alleges that the accused officers created thousands of fake online personas on social media sites, including Twitter, to target Chinese democracy activists and critics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) through online harassment and threats.

The officers disseminated official PRC government propaganda and narratives to counter and overwhelm the critical speech of Chinese activists, covering topics such as PRC’s political system, U.S. domestic and foreign policy, human rights issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang Province, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The investigation also uncovered official MPS directions to group members to compose articles and videos based on certain themes targeting Chinese pro-democracy activists located abroad or the policies of the U.S. government. The group executed a standing order from MPS headquarters to harass a well-known critic of the PRC government and the CCP, making death threats and demanding that U.S. authorities arrest the victim.

“These cases demonstrate the lengths the PRC government will go to silence and harass U.S. persons who exercise their fundamental rights to speak out against PRC oppression, including by unlawfully exploiting a U.S.-based technology company,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “These actions violate our laws and are an affront to our democratic values and basic human rights.”