Two accused state-sponsored cyberspies in China, charged with trying to steal U.S. coronavirus vaccine research and millions in sensitive business and government information, also targeted a Christian pastor.
The Justice Department’s 11-count indictment against Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 31, says the Chinese nationals gave China’s Ministry of State Security the personal data of dissidents, clergy and human rights activists in the United States, China and Hong Kong.
The two also hacked the private emails of a Christian house pastor in Chengdu and shared them with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, leading to his arrest, DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec told Martha MacCallum on “The Story” Tuesday night.
“For instance, the Chinese government shut down a Christian house church, and within a week, these two individuals were hacking into this Chinese Christian pastor’s email account, gathered those emails, submitted it to the Chinese government, and the Chinese government then arrested that pastor,” Kupec said.
“So these two individuals are doing quite the damage,” she added.
In addition to the pastor, the indictment says the two also “provided the MSS (Guangdong State Security Department) with email accounts and passwords belonging to a Hong Kong community organizer, the pastor of a Christian church in Xi’an, and a dissident and former Tiananmen Square protestor,” among others.
Li and Dong’s actions are “concrete examples” of two concerning trends, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said during a press conference in New York.
“China is using cyber intrusions as part of its ‘rob, replicate and replace’ strategy to technological development,” he said, adding that Beijing is also “providing a safe haven for criminal hackers who, as in this case, are hacking in part for their own personal gain but willing to help the state and on call to do so.”
In January, Open Doors USA, a bipartisan persecution watchdog, warned about an “alarming” trend worldwide as China builds a “blueprint of persecution” by policing citizens with constant surveillance.
“China is resurrecting the ‘god as the government state,’ and we’re all threatened by it — atheists, Jews, Christians — everyone,” Open Doors USA president and CEO said at the time.
“Its implications are not just for Christians within China but for every country and for religious freedom generally,” Curry said. “Let me put it together. It is like a puzzle. The pieces are there but it is not until you put it together that you see it clearly. When you see it clearly, it is frightening.”
“I saw with my own eyes the surveillance on the street but also in the churches, watching their congregation,” he said. “Facial scans when you come in and then tracking you and generating reports [with] assumptions built into their artificial intelligence system that is tracking Christian behavior.”
Chinese officials have reportedly been shutting down churches, removing crosses from buildings, and requiring houses of worship to conduct opening ceremonies praising Xi Jinping’s coronavirus response. Believers in China say persecution has only worsened since the outbreak of COVID-19 began in Wuhan.