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A suspected Chinese spy slept with at least 2 mayors and got close to Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell in a yearslong intelligence campaign, report says

Ashley Collman
·5 min read
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  • Fang Fang, also known as Christine Fang, embedded herself in Bay Area politics and slept with two Midwestern mayors as part of a yearslong Chinese intelligence campaign, according to an Axios investigation.

  • She also fundraised for Reps. Eric Swalwell and Tulsi Gabbard, both of whom ran in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Axios said.

  • According to the outlet, Fang returned to China in mid-2015 amid an FBI investigation into her activities. She has not returned to the US since.

  • Fang's story shows the lengths that Beijing goes to influence American politics — getting cozy with politicians early on in their careers so it can influence them later on.

  • Axios' story was published a day after President Donald Trump retweeted a video that purported to show a Chinese professor saying: "We have people at the top of America's core inner circle of power and influence."

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

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A suspected Chinese spy slept with at least two US mayors and got close to numerous Bay Area politicians in a yearslong intelligence campaign directed at influencing American officials early in their careers, according to a new report from Axios.

Fang Fang, also known as Christine Fang, was heavily involved in Bay Area and national US politics from 2011 to 2015, the outlet reported.

Two of the candidates Fang reportedly fundraised for - Rep. Eric Swalwell and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard - both ran for president in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Axios said.

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According to Axios, Swalwell has not been accused of wrongdoing, and said he cut ties with Fang as soon as he learned about her alleged connections to China. Gabbard told Axios via a spokesperson that she has "no recollection of ever meeting or talking with" Fang.

According to Axios, Fang abruptly left the US in mid-2015 amid an FBI investigation into her activities, and has not returned to the US since. The Justice Department has not filed any charges against her.

Fang's story shows China's strategy of targeting up-and-coming politicians to influence them years down the line, when they gain more prominence.

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Axios said it spoke to four current and former US intelligence officials about the case, as well as 22 current and former elected officials, political operatives, and former students who knew Fang, to report the story.

Here's a summary of the outlet's report:

  • Fang was in her late 20s or early 30s when she came to the US in 2011 and enrolled as a student at California State University East Bay, according to friends and acquaintances.

  • Fang used her position as president of school groups at CSU East Bay to start cultivating relationships with politicians.

  • Fang soon became a mainstay at Bay Area political events, volunteered on campaigns, and helped fundraise for Democratic politicians like now-Reps. Eric Swalwell and Tulsi Gabbard.

  • Fang started getting close to Swalwell when he was a councilmember for Dublin City, California. She developed close ties to his office, helped bring in big donors, and even placed an intern in his Washington, DC office.

  • Fang expanded her network nationally by attending a 2014 conference for mayors in Washington, DC, according to multiple sources who spoke to Axios.

  • A US intelligence official and one former elected official said that Fang engaged in sexual or romantic relationships with at least two mayors of Midwestern cities, though Axios was not able to identify either mayor.

  • One of the mayors was described as an older Midwestern mayor "from an obscure city" who referred to Fang as his "girlfriend" in conversation, according to former Cupertino Mayor Gilbert Wong.

  • A sexual encounter involving Fang and an Ohio mayor was also caught on FBI surveillance, according to one US official.

  • Fang came on the radar of US counterintelligence officials as they were investigating another suspected Chinese spy, a current US counterintelligence official said.

  • Fang was put under FBI surveillance, and in 2015, senior US intelligence officials started tipping off the politicians that Fang was getting close to, one official said.

  • In mid-2015, Fang abruptly left the country and returned to China, which came as a surprise to many of her Bay Area political contacts. She has not been back since.

  • US officials do not believe Fang received or passed on classified information. But one current senior US intelligence official said the case was big nonetheless "because there were some really, really sensitive people that were caught up" in her "intelligence network."

Axios' report was published on Tuesday, a day after President Donald Trump retweeted a Tucker Carlson report that included a video of a Beijing professor saying: "We have people at the top of America's core inner circle of power and influence."

Last week, Trump's spy chief wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, warning that China poses "the greatest threat to America today."

In the op-ed, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, wrote that "this year China engaged in a massive influence campaign that included targeting several dozen members of Congress and congressional aides."

Bill Evanina, director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center, also warned last week that China was already starting to target President-elect Joe Biden and his team.

Read the full Axios report here »

Read the original article on Business Insider