Boston man charged with providing Chinese officials information on pro-democracy activists

BOSTON (AP) — A Boston man worked with Chinese government officials over roughly a four-year period to keep tabs on Chinese activists and dissidents in the area who were calling for pro-democracy reforms in the communist nation, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Litang Liang, 63, a U.S. citizen who lives in Boston's Brighton neighborhood, was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government and acting as an agent of a foreign government without notice to the U.S. attorney general, the U.S. attorney's office in Boston said.

Liang, who was arrested Tuesday, was released Thursday on $25,000 bond with electronic monitoring after pleading not guilty, according to court documents. He also surrendered his passport and was ordered not to leave Massachusetts or have any contact with Chinese government officials.

An email seeking comment was left with his attorney.

Liang is accused of “providing the PRC government with information on Boston-area individuals and organizations; organizing a counterprotest in the United States against pro-democracy dissidents; providing photographs of and information about U.S.-based dissidents to PRC government officials; and providing the names of potential recruits to the PRC’s Ministry of Public Security,” according to court documents.

PRC is the People's Republic of China.

The goal was to “covertly advance the PRC government’s goals and agenda within the United States,” according to the indictment.

China has been accused in other cases of trying to interfere with activists in the U.S. critical of Beijing.

Last month, two men were accused by U.S. authorities of helping establish a secret police station in New York City on behalf of the Chinese government, and about three dozen officers with China’s national police force were charged with using social media to harass dissidents inside the United States.

Liang's cooperation with the Chinese government started in 2018 and lasted until at least last year, prosecutors said.

In one case, according to prosecutors, Liang sent a Chinese government official photos and videos of a student activist he believed was responsible for destroying Chinese flags during a 2018 protest in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood.

Liang organized an event in Boston in 2018 that was attended by at least two Chinese government officials, one of whom asked Liang for the name of a person who attended and worked for an elected Boston official. Liang provided the name as requested, authorities said. Court documents did not name the elected official.

Liang also provided video of a dissident attending the “Boston Stands with Hong Kong” march in August 2019 and the following month sent photographs of dissidents in front of the Boston Public Library to a Chinese government official, calling them a “bunch of clowns trying to cause trouble,” prosecutors said.

Liang had contacts with high-ranking Chinese diplomats in the United States, the Ministry of Public Security, and the United Front Work Department, which reports directly to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party to further party goals, prosecutors said. He also visited China in September, where he attended events to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the modern Chinese state.

The Boston man is also accused of providing Chinese government officials with the names and professional affiliations of two people in the Boston area for possible recruitment by China’s Ministry of Public Security, prosecutors said.

Liang is due back in court on July 6.