© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The flags of the US and China are seen in this photo taken on August 2, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two Los Angeles residents have been charged in connection with a Beijing-led conspiracy to target U.S. practitioners of the outlawed Falun Gong movement in China, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday.
John Chen, also known as Chen Jun, and Lin Feng were arrested in California for allegedly helping China avoid paying taxes to a US organization run by Falun Gong practitioners, the department said.
The department described the plan as part of a broader campaign by the Chinese government to counter U.S. opponents. The charges were announced a month after authorities arrested two New Yorkers suspected of working as a Chinese “secret police” in Manhattan’s Chinatown district.
The complaint against Chen and Lin was filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, the department said. Reuters could not immediately reach them or their lawyers for comment. The Chinese embassy in Washington did not comment.
Chen and Lin in 2023 tried to bribe a US tax agent to advance a tax-deductible complaint against the Falun Gong organization, the department said.
The pair paid bribes totaling $5,000 and promised more money to pursue their complaints with the Internal Revenue Service’s Whistleblower Program.
The scandals were designed to achieve China’s goal of “demolishing … Falun Gong,” the department quoted Chen as saying in a phone call. Deducting corporate interest will increase the tax liability of the government.
Falun Gong, based around meditation, was banned by China in 1999 after 10,000 members showed up at a leadership rally in Beijing in silent protest. The group has called on people to abandon the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese government says the group is a religious group that threatens the stability of the country.