DHS Officer Indicted for Helping China to Harass Chinese Dissidents in US

DHS Officer Indicted for Helping China to Harass Chinese Dissidents in US
A man stands outside the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) building in Tukwila, Wash., on March 3, 2020. (Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images)
Frank Fang

A deportation officer with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a retired DHS law enforcement agent were among five people indicted on July 6 in a widening federal investigation over an alleged plan to hunt down Chinese dissidents in the United States.

Craig Miller, who's currently assigned to DHS’s Emergency Relief Operations in Minneapolis, and former DHS agent Derrick Taylor, who's presently employed as a private investigator in Irvine, California, were accused of obtaining and disseminating “sensitive and confidential information from a restricted federal law enforcement database,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on July 7.

“This case exposes attempts by the government of the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to suppress dissenting voices within the United States,” Alan Kohler Jr., assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement. “Actions taken by the defendants–two of which are current or former federal law enforcement officers–demonstrate how the PRC seeks to stalk, intimidate, and silence those who oppose it.”

The plan was first revealed in March, when the DOJ announced charges against three individuals—Matthew Ziburis, a former correctional officer in Florida; Liu Fan, president of a purported New York-based media company; and Sun Qiang, a China-based individual who allegedly acted as an intermediary for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The three were indicted along with Miller and Taylor on July 6.
Under Sun’s direction, Liu aimed to silence three dissidents in the United States by ruining their reputations. One of the dissidents was Arthur Liu, the father of U.S. Olympic skater Alysa Liu. Another was Chen Weiming, an artist who created a sculpture depicting the Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a novel coronavirus molecule.
In Chen’s case, Liu tried to illegally obtain his federal tax returns, believing that Chen had evaded taxes, a crime he could make public to discredit the artist.

The Alleged Plot

The latest DOJ announcement revealed that Liu’s co-conspirators retained Taylor to obtain information on three dissidents, including their passport information, photos, and flight and immigration records. The DOJ didn't identify the three dissidents, but they likely include Liu and Chen.

“Liu, Ziburis, and Sun used this information to target and harass these U.S. residents while acting on behalf of the PRC government,” the DOJ stated.

To obtain information for Liu and his co-conspirators, Taylor first turned to a retired former depositions officer with DHS’s Enforcement and Removal Operations in 2021. The deposition officer accessed the restricted federal enforcement database and turned over information on at least one of the dissidents, including his birthday and visa status.

The deposition officer eventually refused to cooperate with Taylor, who then turned to Miller for assistance, according to a court document.

In a text conversation that took place on Nov. 10, 2021, one of Liu’s co-conspirators asked Taylor if he could obtain passport information on a dissident and his daughter.

“A client is willing to pay $800 for two passport numbers. Please let me know if you can help,” the co-conspirator wrote, according to the court document.

Six days later, Miller ran queries through the database using the two people’s names.

He eventually provided Taylor with individuals’ residences, flight records, and photographs, according to the court document. Taylor provided Miller with a gift card to “Wine & Times” as a thank you for his cooperation.

When confronted by FBI agents, Taylor and Miller initially lied—the former saying that he obtained some of the information on the dark web, while the latter said he hadn't been in “extensive contact” with Taylor since “relocating to Minnesota in 2015,” according to the court document.

Taylor was Miller’s boss from 2009 to 2011 while the DHS officer was stationed in Los Angeles, the court document states.

“We will defend the rights of people in the United States to engage in free speech and political expression, including views the PRC government wants to silence,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen said in a statement.

Miller and Taylor are charged with obstruction of justice, while Taylor is also charged with making a false statement to the FBI, the DOJ stated.

If convicted, Taylor faces up to 25 years in prison, while Miller faces up to 20 years, according to the DOJ.

Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.