US Government Charges CCP Agents for Bribery Scheme Targeting Falun Gong
On May 26, a federal court charged two Chinese agents for furthering a transnational repression campaign against Falun Gong practitioners through a bribery scheme directed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Orange County, New York.
The two agents attempted to bribe a purported public official with tens of thousands of dollars under the direction of a CCP official, in attempts to “topple” the persecuted spiritual practice Falun Gong in the United States.
“The details of this case show how Falun Gong practitioners remain a major target for the CCP’s transnational repression. They also demonstrate the lengths the CCP will go — bribing a tax official to break U.S. law and weaponize U.S. institutions against innocent people — to try to get their way.”
“We applaud the U.S. government for taking this action, and we encourage it to vigorously pursue CCP agents across the U.S. because they pose a threat not only to Americans who speak out against the atrocities in China, but also to our government officials, and indeed our democratic system itself, all of which are targeted by these illicit schemes,” said Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center.
According to court filings, John Chen (aka “Chen Jun”), a 70-year-old U.S. citizen from China, and Lin Feng, a 43-year-old Chinese citizen residing in Los Angeles, targeted an unnamed Falun Gong-run entity with the aim of stripping its tax-exempt status “through bribery and deceit” and manipulation of the IRS Whistleblower Program.
The information that suspected agents Chen and Feng submitted into the program’s database in February echoed CCP propaganda, containing rhetoric that the Chinese regime regularly uses to “justify its subjugation and harassment of Falun Gong members,” according to the complaint.
Chen is a notorious Party loyalist and one of the most outspoken anti-Falun Gong community leaders in Los Angeles. Previously, John Chen met with former CCP head Hu Jintao and current CCP head Xi Jinping. Chen also boasts close ties to Chinese consulate in Los Angeles. On multiple occasions since 2000, he has also taken to public forums like the Chinese consulate seminars and VIP luncheons at the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese (ACFROC) to defame, slander, and make incorrect remarks about Falun Gong.
CCP Targets Non-Profit Falun Gong-Related Entity
As early as January 21, 2023, Chen indicated that the “purpose of paying these bribes, which were directed and funded by the PRC government, was to carry out the PRC government’s aim of ‘toppl[ing] . . . the Falun Gong.’” Between January and May, the two agents acted inside the United States under direction the direction of a Chinese official to carry out the illicit bribery scheme, using a China-based encrypted messaging app to communicate.
The Chinese official mentioned in the complaint is “the one that is always in charge of these [Falun Gong] matters,” according to Chen in an intercepted call documented in the complaint. In a separate call on May 16, Chen directed Feng to deliver the agreed bribe money to New York, saying he would also “contact Tianjin again.”
On May 14, 2023, Chen and Feng met with an undercover FBI agent who posed as an IRS official, promising to pay the official a total of $50,000 to open an audit on the Falun Gong-related entity. In that meeting, Chen handed a $1,000 cash bribe to the undercover agent as an initial payment, promising more to come in following meetings, including 60 percent of the IRS whistleblower award if the complaint to strip the rights from the Falun Gong-related entity was successful.
In a second meeting at John F. Kennedy International Airport on May 18, Feng paid the purported IRS official a $4,000 cash bribe payment in furtherance of the scheme. According to the unsealed complaint, “Chen allegedly obtained funding from the PRC government to make bribe payments during his trips to the PRC in the course of the scheme.”
Around May 18, a guarantee of a third and fourth payment of $25,000 each was promised to the undercover agent. Chen planned to return to “the PRC and gather more funding for the Bribery Scheme,” and Feng would hand deliver the cash bribe to New York once Chen returned.
The malicious intent and directed campaign to repress and intimidate Falun Gong practitioners in the United States was laid out by Chen in several recorded calls. As Chen and Feng carried out this scheme on behalf of the CCP, he stated that his associates in the PRC Government “are like blood brothers. We started this fight against [the founder of the Falun Gong] twenty, thirty years ago. They are always with us.”
Chen and Feng now face charges of four counts related to conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering. Chen was held without bond, and the U.S. Marshals Service will transport him from California to New York. Feng will remain in custody until his detention hearing on June 1, according to a comment to the Epoch Times by a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.
Dozens of US Officials at Every Level Speak Out
The U.S. Department of Justice published an article with additional comments from officials on every level of the United States justice system. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, FBI Director Christopher Wray, FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate, among others publicly condemned the CCP’s brazen scheme to perpetrate transnational repression of Falun Gong practitioners through attempted bribery of a federal official.
“John Chen and Lin Feng allegedly waged a campaign at the behest of the Government of the People’s Republic of China to influence a U.S. Government official in order to further the PRC Government’s repression of practitioners of Falun Gong,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “Efforts to manipulate and use the arms of the U.S. Government to carry out the PRC Government’s autocratic aims are as shocking as they are insidious. My office will work vigorously to protect against malign foreign influences.”
The agencies involved with this case include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Security Division (NSD), the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, and the USAO – New York, Southern.
“For nearly 24 years, the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong on foreign soil has never slowed or halted,” says Browde. “Instead, the Chinese authorities and their proxies continue today to rampantly carry out transnational repression against Falun Gong. This incident is a clear example but in many ways, just the tip of the iceberg.”