Chinese National Sentenced to 9 Months in Prison for Threatening Pro-Democracy Activist

‘The defendant’s crimes are serious. He weaponized the authoritarian nature of the PRC government in order to harass and threaten Miss Zoey,’ prosecutors said.

A U.S. District Court sentenced a Chinese national to nine months in prison, three years of supervised release, and deportation afterward for cyberstalking and threatening a fellow student in Boston. He will self-surrender to a designated jail on June 7. Wu Xiaolei was found guilty on both counts three months ago.

The sentence is less than the prosecutors’ recommendation—33 months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release—but more than the defendant’s attorney requested: release followed by an immediate self-deportation.

After the deportation, Mr. Wu will not be allowed back into the United States unless he gets special permission from the secretary of Homeland Security, the judge said.

Judge Denise Casper, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, said Mr. Wu’s crimes, although committed in a limited period of two days, were aimed at silencing the pro-democracy voice of the victim using the alias Zoey. Mr. Wu also showed a pattern of harassment and advised others to harass Zoey, she said.

The judge said she also considered Mr. Wu’s story and the broader effect of the sentence in protecting more Chinese students and citizens from harm on U.S. soil.

Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy said in a statement afterward, “Mr. Wu’s criminal conduct is very serious. He harnessed the fear of potential retribution from the PRC government to harass and threaten an innocent individual who had posted an innocuous, pro-democracy flier on the Berklee campus.” PRC stands for the People’s Republic of China.

“Mr. Wu’s violent threats achieved his goal of instilling fear in his effort to silence this brave victim and others who might want to speak out against the PRC government,” He added. “Our office and the Department of Justice will not tolerate efforts to intimidate and threaten people to suppress their First Amendment rights. Censorship and repression campaigns will never be tolerated here.”

Prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo that Zoey’s father, who lives in China, was repeatedly visited by Chinese authorities, just as Zoey feared would happen after Mr. Wu harassed her. In their view, although Mr. Wu’s action might not have taken his specific actions under the direction of the Chinese authorities, “he nevertheless enlisted himself as part of the PRC’s network of censorship and repression,” a network that reaches into the United States to intimidate those with family members in China.

Prosecutors said they made the sentencing recommendation based on “the defendant’s actions against Miss Zoey, his apparent lack of remorse, and a need for strong general deterrence.”

The defendant’s attorney, Michael Tumposky, argued that Mr. Wu should not be punished because he didn’t plead guilty.

Mr. Tumposky said Mr. Wu’s story is about a young man passionate about jazz who made it to his dream school. However, his dream was shattered in two days by his “immature” behavior. The lawyer framed the issue as a cultural collision between Mr. Wu’s “own highly sheltered upbringing in communist China and the democratic norms of the United States.”

At the sentencing hearing on April 24, Mr. Wu read a statement and apologized repeatedly. “There’s not a day I didn’t feel regret,” he said. “I have to take responsibility and learn from what I have done. And the first step is to say ‘sorry.’”

Mr. Tumposky and Mr. Wu declined to comment to The Epoch Times as they left the courthouse.

A spokesperson of the Berklee College of Music, where Mr. Wu used to study, told The Epoch Times that she had no comment.

Berklee suspended Mr. Wu after his arrest in December 2022. He has surrendered his Chinese passport to the court. He is still on a student visa.

Cyberstalking and Threatening

On Oct. 22, 2022, student activist Zoey, who goes by the alias for fear of reprisal, posted a piece of paper on a window near the Berklee College of Music campus that read, “Stand with Chinese People,” “We Want Freedom,” and “We Want Democracy.”

Zoey did that to support those in China, and she posted a picture of her flyer to her social media account.

After Mr. Wu saw her social media post, he threatened her on Chinese social media app WeChat and through Instagram and email.

According to the charging document, he said in a WeChat group with more than 300 members: “I already called the tipoff line in the country; the public security agency will go greet your family.

“Post more, I will chop your [expletive] hands off.”

Prosecutors said Mr. Wu posted Zoey’s email and home addresses online. At a court hearing on Jan. 23, Zoey said she thought Mr. Wu made her information public to encourage others to beat her up.

“I remain terrified to this day,” she said.

The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston on April 24, 2024. (Learner Liu/The Epoch Times)
The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston on April 24, 2024. (Learner Liu/The Epoch Times)

FBI Warning

“Today, Xiaolei Wu learned there are serious consequences for harassing, threatening, stalking, and infringing on a fellow student’s constitutional rights solely because she was critical of the ruling Communist Party of China,”  Jodi Cohen, special agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Division said in a press statement of the Department of Justice.

“What Mr. Wu did—in weaponizing the authoritarian nature of the People’s Republic of China to threaten this woman—is incredibly disturbing. We’d like to thank her for her bravery in coming forward, and remind others that the FBI will do everything it can to ensure that those who try to infringe on our fundamental rights will face similar consequences.”

Learner Liu contributed to this report.


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