Liu Sheikh said the US Olympic skater and her father, Arthur Liu – a former political refugee – were among the targets of an espionage operation that the Justice Department claims was ordered by the Chinese government.
Arthur Liu told The Associated Press he was contacted by the FBI last October, and warned of the scheme just as his 16-year-old daughter was preparing for the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February. The father said he didn’t tell his daughter about it so as not to scare her or distract her from the competition.
“We thought Alyssa had a very good chance of qualifying for the Olympic team and he was really, really scared,” said Arthur Liu.
Earlier Wednesday, the Ministry of Justice announced the indictment of five men accused of acting on behalf of the Chinese government for a series of brazen and large-scale schemes. to hunt down and harass Chinese dissidents in the United States.
Arthur Liu said his daughter was included in the criminal complaint as “Defector 3” and “Family Member,” respectively.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he was “not aware of the details” surrounding the allegations, but said China “strongly opposes US slander by raising this issue out of thin air.”
“China has always required Chinese citizens to abide by the laws and regulations of host countries, and we will never ask our citizens to engage in activities that violate local laws,” Zhao told reporters at a Thursday briefing. “The so-called cross-border harassment schemes have just been fabricated.”
Liu said he took a stand against China’s bullying by allowing his daughter to compete in the recent Winter Olympics, finishing seventh in the women’s event.
“This is her moment. This is her only chance in a lifetime to compete in the Olympics. I will not let them stop her from going and I will do everything I can to make sure she is safe and I am willing to make sacrifices so that she can enjoy the moment,” Arthur Liu said. By winning – to stop me – to silence me from expressing my opinions anywhere.”
The father said he agreed to allow his daughter to compete with assurances from the State Department and the US Olympic Committee that Alyssa Liu would be closely guarded and kept safely while competing in China. They said she would be accompanied by at least two people at all times.
“Maybe they are just trying to intimidate us, … in a way that threatens us not to say anything, get them into trouble and say anything political or related to human rights abuses in China,” said Arthur Liu. “I had concerns about her safety. The US government has done a good job protecting her.”
Arthur Liu said he was called in November by a man claiming to be an official with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, asking for his and his daughters’ passport numbers. Arthur Liu refused to provide them with it and said he would call his contact on Team USA the next day.
“I didn’t feel good about it,” Arthur Liu said. “I felt like something fishy was going on. “Through my dealings with the American Figure Skating Association, they would never call me on the phone to get copies of our passports. I really cut it off as soon as I realized what he was asking.”
The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesperson for Figure Skating USA has postponed comment to Team USA.
Arthur Liu does not recall that Matthew Ziboris, who was arrested Tuesday on charges including conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and criminal use of identification means, was approached by Matthew Ziboris personally. Ziburis was released on $500,000 bail.
Prosecutors allege that Zeboris was hired to conduct family surveillance and pose as a member of an international sports commission to ask Arthur Liu for a copy of his and Alyssa Liu’s passports by claiming it was a travel “readiness check” related to COVID-19. The complaint stated that when Arthur Liu refused, Zippuri threatened them with delaying or preventing international travel.
Liu the Elder said he left China in his twenties as a political refugee as he protested against the communist government in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Arthur Liu eventually settled in the Bay Area, set himself up in law school and sponsored one of America’s most promising athletes.
His daughter visited their ancestral home for the first time while at the Olympics. Arthur Liu said that his daughter was generally warmly embraced by Chinese fans and the media, who considered Alyssa Liu as one of them.
But through an espionage investigation, he learned that China was aware of an Instagram message about human rights abuses against the Uyghur ethnic minority that his daughter had once posted. During the games, Alyssa Liu also told her father that a stranger approached her late one night in a café after a free skating event, and that the man followed her and asked her to come to his apartment.
“I kind of accepted that my life would be this way because of what I chose to do in 1989, to speak out against the government. I know the Chinese government will extend its long hands to any corner of the world,” Arthur Liu said. “I will continue to enjoy life and live Life as I want to live. I won’t let this push me down and I won’t let them succeed.”
Follow AP journalist Sally Ho on Twitter at http://twitter.com/_sallyho.
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