U.S. Olympic figure skater Alysa Liu and her father Arthur Liu – a former political refugee – were among those targeted in a spying operation that the Justice Department alleges was ordered by the Chinese government, the Associated Press reports. Arthur Liu said the FBI warned him about the scheme in October just as his 16-year-old daughter was preparing for the February Winter Olympics in Beijing. The father said he did not tell his daughter about the issue so as not to distract her from the competition. The Justice Department on Wednesday announced charges against five men accused of acting on behalf of the Chinese government for a series of brazen and wide-ranging schemes to stalk and harass Chinese dissidents in the U.S.
Liu said he took a stand against China’s bullying by allowing his daughter to compete at the Olympic Winter Games, where she placed 7th in the women’s event. The father agreed to let his daughter compete with assurances from the State Department and U.S. Olympic Committee that Alysa Liu would be closely protected and kept safe while competing in China. They said she would have at least two people escorting her at all times. Arthur Liu does not remember being approached in person by Matthew Ziburis, who was arrested Tuesday on charges that include conspiring to commit interstate harassment. Ziburis was released on a $500,000 bond. Prosecutors allege that Ziburis was hired to perform surveillance on the family and pose as a member of an international sports committee to ask Arthur Liu for a copy of his and Alysa Liu’s passports by claiming it was a travel “preparedness check” related to COVID-19. The complaint said when Arthur Liu refused, Ziburis threatened to delay or deny them international travel.