A Chinese national who has been studying in Boston has been indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury for allegedly stalking and threatening another Chinese citizen for posting fliers that support democracy in China.
The U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday that 25-year-old Xiaolei Wu, a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, was indicted on one count of cyberstalking and one count of interstate transmissions of threatening communications. He was arrested in December on a single count of stalking.
The department says an individual posted a flier either on or near the Berklee campus in mid-October written with pro-democracy slogans “We Want Freedom” and “We Want Democracy.”
Wu allegedly harassed the individual through social media, even threatening to chop off the person’s hands if any more fliers were posted. He also allegedly told the target that he had informed security authorities in China about the fliers and that agents would visit the victim’s family. Prosecutors also say Wu discovered the victim’s email address and posted it online to trigger further harassment.
Wu faces up to five years in prison on each charge of cyberstalking and interstate transmissions of threatening communications, along with a fine of up to $250,000 for each charge. VOA’s Mandarin Service says the Berklee College of Music has temporarily canceled Wu’s student status.
According to VOA’s Mandarin Service, Wu’s alleged harassment efforts began shortly after an October incident in Beijing in which a man identified online as Peng Zaizhou hung a banner on the city’s Sitong Bridge opposing President Xi Jinping’s strict “zero-COVID” lockdown policy. His stance resonated with Chinese students overseas, who began putting up pro-democracy posters.
But the posters were often torn down by Chinese students loyal to Beijing and that some of the Chinese students were harassed to varying degrees. The Chinese Students’ and Scholars Association, which has close ties to Chinese embassies and consulates, has been blamed for the on-campus harassment.
A report by the Hoover Institution, a U.S.-based research center, accuses the CSSA of undermining the academic freedom of other Chinese students and scholars on U.S. campuses.
Some information for this report came from VOA’s Mandarin Service.