STORY: Two Los Angeles residents were arrested for allegedly taking part in a Beijing-directed scheme to disrupt U.S.-based practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned in China for its criticism of the Chinese government.
The Justice Department on Friday alleged the pair tried to bribe an undercover federal agent posing as a U.S. tax official, paying $5,000 in cash, with the promise of more rewards if he or she advanced a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service to revoke federal tax exemption for a Falun Gong entity.
Stripping the entity’s exempt status would increase its federal tax obligation.
The department quoted a suspect in an intercepted call, saying the bribes were intended to carry out China’s aim of “toppling the Falun Gong”.
China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately comment on the charges.
Falun Gong is a spiritual movement founded in the 1990s, based broadly around meditation.
It has called for people to renounce the ruling Chinese government, and in turn Beijing calls it a cult organization that threatens national stability.
Friday’s charges were announced a month after federal agents arrested two New York residents on suspicion of operating a Chinese “secret police station” in Manhattan’s Chinatown district.