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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the weeks before the U.S. presidential election, three prominent Chinese activists in the U.S. found their homes surrounded by anonymous protesters who accused them of spying for the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The three activists, who had fled China due to repression from Chinese authorities, now face physical threats on U.S. soil.

  • The protesters appeared to be supporters of an anti-CCP movement led by Guo Wengui and former White House adviser Steve Bannon.

What's happening: The trouble began in September, when Guo, a Chinese billionaire living in exile in the U.S. who has developed a large following, made a video denouncing a long list of well-known Chinese dissidents as supposed CCP spies.

  • Among the names he mentioned were Bob Fu, Wu Jianmin, and Guo Baosheng (no relation to Guo Wengui), all long-time U.S. residents who fled China amid government repression.

Bob Fu is a Chinese American pastor in Midland, Texas, known for his work supporting Christians in China facing repression. A former leader of the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement, he fled China in 1997 amid state persecution.

  • Fu and his family were taken into protective custody in October after dozens of protesters, apparently mobilized by online disinformation, protested outside their house for weeks.
  • The protesters first arrived in buses outside his home in early October, holding signs accusing him of being a "CCP spy." The protesters, who refused to identify themselves, appeared to be of Chinese heritage and held signs in English and Chinese.

What he's saying: Fu told Axios that local law enforcement said there were "credible threats" against him and his family.

  • "It’s very traumatic to my family, to my children," said Fu, who added that he doesn't have any relationship with Guo and doesn't know why Guo would accuse him of spying for China.
  • "I cannot find any reasonable answer."

Wu Jianmin is a democracy activist who now lives in California.

  • Between Sept. 23 and Nov. 20, 10 to 30 protesters gathered outside of Wu's home in southern California every day, he told Axios.
  • Videos and photographs viewed by Axios show protesters holding signs accusing him of being a "fake anti-Communist," threatening him with a toilet plunger, and punching and kicking him in the face. They also shouted that he wanted to spread COVID-19 to kill his neighbors.
  • Wu said local law enforcement told him the protesters had the right to rally as long as they did not infringe on his property. It wasn’t until Nov. 20 that Wu secured a restraining order against the protest leader, causing the protesters to disperse.

What he's saying: “I hope American law enforcement will stop Guo Wengui. He shouldn’t be allowed to do what he is doing,” Wu said.

  • “They took videos outside my house every day and put them online,” he told Axios. “My children and wife are afraid and have expressed emotional trauma.” 

Guo Baosheng is a CCP critic who lives in Virginia.

  • For three days in late September, about 20 people surrounded Guo's house, Guo told Axios. They held anti-CCP signs, took photos of Guo, and waved flags of the New Federal State of China, an anti-CCP movement spearheaded by Guo Wengui and Bannon, according to photos viewed by Axios.
  • But after Guo Baosheng successfully filed a protective order, the protesters stopped coming.

Axios reached out to Guo Wengui’s lawyer for comment, but they did not respond before publication.

The bottom line: Whatever Guo Wengui is up to, it's making the lives of Chinese activists in the U.S. harder.

Go deeper

China sanctions top Trump alumni one day after Uyghur genocide determination

Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

China's Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday it would sanction 28 "anti-China" U.S. politicians, including a slew of top officials from the outgoing Trump administration such as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former national security adviser John Bolton and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Between the lines, via Axios China expert Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: Chinese government officials have traditionally decried the use of unilateral sanctions by Western countries, even though China regularly blocks foreign companies and individuals from its markets for perceived political slights.

Trump pardons former GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy

President Trump has pardoned Elliott Broidy, a former top Republican fundraiser who pleaded guilty late last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws as part of a campaign to sway the administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Why it matters: Broidy was a deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee early in Trump’s presidency, and attempted to leverage his influence in the Trump administration on behalf of his clients. The president's decision to pardon Broidy represents one last favor for a prominent political ally.

Jan 19, 2021 - World

U.S. declares China's actions against Uighurs "genocide"

A protester in London. Photo Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty

With just one day left in President Trump's term, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has officially determined that China's campaign of mass internment, forced labor and forced sterilization of over 1 million Muslim minorities in Xinjiang constitutes "genocide" and "crimes against humanity."

Why it matters: The U.S. has become the first country to adopt these terms to describe the Chinese Communist Party's gross human rights abuses in its far northwest.