Chinese Agents Obtained Homeland Security Data In Effort To Discredit Chen

Two Department of Homeland Security agents were involved in the effort to harass and discredit sculptor Weiming Chen and destroy his artwork, the U.S. Justice Department revealed this week.
The involvement of Chinese Government operatives in the effort was previously publicly known. Unrecognized until now, at least publicly, was that those foreign agents had managed to penetrate a U.S. federal government operation intended to protect the nation from foreign intrigue and hostile action and turned a current and former employee of the U.S. Government to assist them in carrying out their effort to foreclose the exercising of free speech that was critical of China, its policies and its political leaders.
Indicted in June were Craig Miller, a 15-year Department of Homeland Security employee, and Derrick Taylor, a retired Homeland Security agent working as a private investigator. Miller and Taylor are accused in the indictment of accessing information about Chinese activists living in the United States from a restricted government database and then providing that information to two other individuals working on behalf of the Chinese Government who then used the data to target the victims.Miller and Taylor were arrested in June. They were named in a superseding indictment that also cataloged the misdeeds of Fan “Frank” Liu, Matthew Ziburis and Qiang “Jason” Sun, who were named in an earlier indictment. Liu and Ziburis are in federal custody. Federal investigators have outlined a “transnational repression scheme to target U.S. residents whose political views and actions are disfavored” by the Chinese governmental regime headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Those U.S. residents, some of whom have become naturalized citizens, are at odds with China and the Chinese Communist Party over their advocacy for democracy in China, according to the Justice Department.
One of those dissidents figuring prominently in the case is Weiming Chen, a sculptor born in 1970 who fled Communist China three decades ago to avoid political persecution.
Chen, who was born in Hangzhou, now resides in both New Zealand and the United States. He experienced an early advance to his career in 1991 when he was commissioned by the New Zealand government to create a 3-meter bronze statue of Edmund Hillary. He zoomed to international attention thereafter when his artistic efforts took on a political tone described as a challenge to the communist regime in his native country. Since that time, Chen has engaged in an advocacy of freedom that does not precisely fit into any ideology. In 2008, he created a 6.4-meters-high replica of the Goddess of Democracy that stood in the Chinese University of Hong Kong until December 23, 2021.
In 2011, Chen traveled to Syria to fight during the Syrian uprising alongside Free Syrian Army rebels, a faction of officers of the Syrian armed forces seeking to bring down the government of Bashar al-Assad.
In 2017, Chen, who characterizes himself as equal parts sculptor and freedom activist, began erecting his statues in the Mojave Desert to celebrate the human spirit in its longing for freedom in the face of the oppression of tyranny, which in the modern world, according to Chen, is often represented by communism. That venue, known as Liberty Sculpture Park, is located in Yermo, roughly 13 miles east of Barstow.
Among the existing pieces at the park are a bust of Chief Crazy Horse, the inside of the headdress for which bears the phrase, “Give me liberty or give me death;” a statue of Chinese labor activist Li Wangyang; “Tank Man,” which shows the still-unidentified man with two shopping bags who stood down a tank on June 5, 1989 during protests that took place in Tiananmen Square that year; the number “64” or “Six Four,” commemorating the Tiananmen Square protests, which, according to unverified reports contradicted by the Chinese Communist Government, ended in the massacre of somewhere between 200 and 2,000 protesters; and the work “Liberate Hong Kong.”
On June 4, 2021, Chen introduced two new sculptures into Liberty Sculpture Park, “CCP Virus” and another titled “Victims of Communism.”
A little over a month later, in July 2021, agents of the Chinese Communist Party with ties to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, repeatedly attacked the CCP Virus sculpture, eventually burning it to total destruction on July 23, 2021.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the two perpetrators were Liu, 62, and Ziburis, 49.
Liu’s and Ziburis’s destruction of CCP Virus was intended to advance the interests and position of the Chinese government, according to the Department of Justice.
The Chinese Ministry of State Security was quite intent on discrediting Chen and was particularly sensitive with regard to the implication of Chen’s CCP Virus piece, which by its theme and form implies that the COVID-19 virus was deliberately unleashed by the Chinese government upon the Western Democracies.
Not only did Liu and Ziburis destroy the original CCP Virus sculpture, Liu, believing that Chen was generating considerable income from his work as a sculptor that he was not duly reporting to tax officials, employed a Queens, New York private investigator to deliver bribes to an IRS agent in an effort to obtain Chen’s tax returns.
The private investigator played along, but upon being directed to deliver a bribe to a federal employee, contacted the FBI. The investigator provided to the federal government information about Liu’s and Ziburis’s activities.
According to the indictment, one of Liu’s co-conspirators retained Taylor to obtain personal identification information regarding multiple People’s Republic of China dissidents residing in the United States, including passport information and photos, and flight and immigration records, which Taylor allegedly tasked to two Department of Homeland Security agents, including Miller. As alleged, Miller and the other agent, who was not named, obtained the information from the restricted database and improperly provided it to Taylor, who shared it with the co-conspirator. Liu, Ziburis and Sun used this information to target and harass these U.S. residents while acting on behalf of the People’s Republic of China government.
According to court documents, Miller and Taylor both lied about their past conduct when confronted by the FBI. According to the indictment, Miller deleted text messages between him and Taylor from his phone while being interviewed by the FBI, and Taylor instructed a co-conspirator to withhold evidence from the U.S. government. When interviewed by the FBI, Taylor falsely claimed that he obtained the records in question from a friend who was using the dark web.
When interviewed by the FBI, Miller initially claimed to be in sporadic contact with Taylor and said the two did not discuss work matters. After agents admonished Miller to be honest, Miller admitted that Taylor provided him names to run through law enforcement databases. Miller granted consent to the FBI to search his phone, and ultimately admitted that he ran the queries for Taylor and sent the results to Taylor via text message, and that Taylor had provided a gift card in return. Miller then admitted that he deleted the text chain with Taylor during the interview earlier that day and that he fabricated all earlier statements about the text chain, including whether the chain included the names requested by Taylor.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Liu had acquired Chen’s tax information with the intent of publicly disclosing that Chen was underreporting his income and underpaying his taxes. This, it was thought, would alienate the U.S. Government from Chen and leave Chen bitter toward his adoptive country.
In March 2021, while cooperating with the FBI and with Chen’s full knowledge and consent, the Queens-based private investigator passed along to Liu copies of two of Chen’s tax returns.
“Based on his high price quotes for his artwork, we believe he definitely took in a large sum and evaded taxes, a major crime in the U.S. After obtaining evidence, spend money for court and attorney fees to totally get rid of him,” Liu wrote to Sun.
Liu and Ziburis have been in federal custody since March, charged with acting as agents of the Chinese government without registering with the Justice Department. Liu is also charged with conspiracy to bribe a federal official. Last year, when they were free, they succeeded in totally wrecking Chen’s CCP Virus sculpture. Chen immediately vowed to rebuild it. In June, a replica of CCP Virus was reestablished at Liberty Sculpture Park.
Sun, it is believed, is the prime mover behind many of the efforts at harassing and discouraging protest against the Chinese government that takes place on American soil. He has been charged with conspiracy to bribe a public official. He has likely departed the United States for either Canada, Hong Kong or China.
The manner in which Miller and Taylor were compromised is alarming. Each is charged with a single count of obstruction of justice. Taylor is additionally charged with making a false statement to the FBI in connection with the investigation.
Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement: “We will defend the rights of people in the United States to engage in free speech and political expression, including views the People’s Republic of China government wants to silence. As charged, these individuals aided agents of a foreign government in seeking to suppress dissenting voices who have taken refuge here.”
Taylor, who ran a private investigation firm from an office in Irvine, previously worked a security detail for Space X.
-Mark Gutglueck

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