Friday, January 26, 2024

Chinese Music Student Convicted of Stalking, Threatening Pro-Democracy Activist in Boston

 Chinese Music Student Convicted of Stalking, Threatening Pro-Democracy Activist in Boston 

A federal jury has convicted a Chinese student at Boston’s Berklee College of Music for stalking and threatening a fellow student who posted flyers in support of democracy in China.

Wu Xiaolei, 25, a Chinese citizen and Berklee College of Music student, was indicted last January on counts of cyberstalking and interstate transmissions of threatening communication. On Jan. 25, he was found guilty on both counts.

Judge Denise J. Casper scheduled the sentencing hearing for April 24.

The student activist who was the subject of Mr. Wu’s harassment campaign was referred to only as Zooey in court, for fear of reprisal. She is also from China and has permanent resident status in the United States.

Last April, Zooey’s friends started a petition calling on Berklee to issue a public statement to condemn the harassment and improve its process for responding to similar incidents. To date, the petition has gathered more than 1,000 signatures.

The college, which has about 6,000 students, hasn’t issued any public statements regarding Wu Xiaolei’s case yet and hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment by The Epoch Times.

Wu Xiaolei (R) leaves the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts with his attorneys in Boston on Jan. 25, 2024. (Learner Liu/The Epoch Times)
Wu Xiaolei (R) leaves the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts with his attorneys in Boston on Jan. 25, 2024. (Learner Liu/The Epoch Times)

Cyberstalking and Threatening

Mr. Wu’s harassment campaign started after he saw a piece of paper posted on a window near the Boston campus that read, “Stand with Chinese People,” “We Want Freedom,” and “We Want Democracy,” on Oct. 22, 2022, according to the charging documents.

Consequently, he threatened Zooey on social media app WeChat and through Instagram and email.

“I already called the tipoff line in the country; the public security agency will go greet your family,” he said in a WeChat group with more than 300 members, according to the complaint. “Post more, I will chop your [expletive] hands off,” he added.

Prosecutors said Mr. Wu posted her email and home addresses online.

At a hearing on Jan. 23, the victim said she thought Mr. Wu made her information public to encourage others to beat her up.

“I remain terrified until this day,” she said.

With Mr. Wu’s conviction, the Department of Justice reiterated its commitment to “ensuring all U.S. residents are able to freely exercise their fundamental rights,” according to Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s national security division.

“No one in this country should ever be subjected to threats of violence or a cyberstalking harassment campaign for expressing their political views,” Joshua S. Levy, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said in a press release.

“Mr. Wu now stands as a convicted felon for his illegal efforts to suppress speech by a fellow Berklee School of Music student who was critical of the government of China. This type of conduct will never be tolerated.”

Special Agent in Charge Jodi Cohen, of the FBI’s Boston division, echoed Mr. Levy’s comments: “What Xiaolei Wu did in attempting to silence and intimidate an activist who expressed dissension with the ruling Communist Party of China is not only criminal, but completely against our country’s democratic values.”

“Today’s conviction upholds one of our most fundamental rights—freedom of speech—and the FBI will ensure that anyone who tries to infringe on this right using threats or harassment will face the same fate as Mr. Wu,” Ms. Cohen said.

Transnational Repression

Mr. Wu’s conviction comes amid growing concerns about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) influence operations in the United States and its attempts to silence Chinese dissidents.
Over the past year, the Department of Justice has charged more than a dozen Chinese intelligence agents, officials, or their American accomplices over a range of campaigns allegedly aimed at harassing and spying on Chinese rights advocates in the United States and, in some cases, attempting to coerce their return to China.
The Chinese regime also operates more than 100 “police service stations” around the world, including two in New York City and one in Los Angeles, according to Spanish nonprofit Safeguard Defenders.

Most recently, Zooey’s experience was mentioned at a transnational repression hearing hosted by the House Select Committee on the CCP in December 2023.

Zhang Jinrui, a Georgetown law school student who experienced harassment on campus in late 2022, while distributing flyers against China’s zero-COVID policy, told lawmakers he considered such harassment—“carried out organically by CCP supporters who are emboldened by the CCP”—to be informal transnational repression.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chair of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, elaborated on the term “transnational repression”: “The CCP actually seeks to surveil, influence, punish, and coerce people all over the world. They want to silence their critics, control politics, and police thought far beyond China’s borders.”

The FBI has run online and billboard campaigns in cities such as Philadelphia and Las Vegas to encourage victims of transnational repression to report their cases since the agency created a website dedicated to the subject in March 2022.
Learner Liu and Dorothy Li contributed to this article.

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