US prosecutors have accused China of trying to harass and undermine an American critic of China who is running for US Congress, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in New York.

Federal prosecutors in New York’s Brooklyn borough said a Chinese government agent named Qiming Lin asked a US-based private investigator to help manufacture a political scandal that would undermine the congressional candidate.

The candidate was not identified in court documents but fits the description of Xiong Yan, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for a US House of Representatives seat representing the eastern part of New York’s Long Island.

Yan is a dissident who was involved in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. After Chinese authorities cracked down on the protest, he was detained without charge for 19 months and stripped of his academic credentials.

He fled China in 1992, moving to the US, where he became a naturalized US citizen and served in the US army.

Lin is accused of a conspiracy to commit interstate harassment, among other charges.

A lawyer for Lin could not be identified from court documents.

According to the complaint, Lin is a retired agent of the ministry of state security, a Chinese intelligence agency, but “continued to act on behalf of the MSS even if ostensibly retired”.

Yan’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the complaint, Lin tried to enlist the unidentified private investigator in a scheme to secretly follow Yan for weeks.

“If you don’t find anything after following him for a few weeks, can we manufacture something,” Lin asked, according to prosecutors.

“Right now we don’t want him to be elected,” Lin allegedly said in a later conservation with the investigator.

The private investigator reported Lin to the FBI, the complaint said.

Yan is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for the House seat representing New York’s first district, currently held by a Republican, Lee Zeldin, who opted to run for governor rather than seek re-election.

“This complaint shows that both election interference and malign foreign influence remain top priorities for the [justice department],” said Brandon Van Grack, a former justice department lawyer now at Morrison & Foerster, who is not involved in the case.

Source: The Guardian