LI XIAOYU AND Dong Jiazhi, the two hackers in Guangzhou accused by the United States of stealing trade secrets from hundreds of companies, attempting to steal coronavirus research and providing email passwords of known dissidents and religious leaders to the authorities, are unlikely ever to get their day in a US federal court, and be quite happy for that.
Their indictment, handed down by a federal grand jury in Spokane, Washington earlier this month, was made public on July 21, an exercise in naming and shaming as the Trump administration sustains its relentless drumbeat of accusations against Beijing for the theft of US intellectual property.
In this particular case, the finger of opprobrium is also being pointed at the Guangdong State Security Department of the Ministry of State Security, on whose behalf Li and Dong were allegedly working, when they were not, as the indictment lays it out, blackmailing some victims on their own account.
The same day there was an effort in the US Congress to introduce legislation to sanction hackers who try to steal coronavirus-related research. An attempt to tack it on to the National Defense Authorization Act failed, but it is likely to see the light of day again as a stand-alone bill.
The mood among US lawmakers in the run-up to the presidential election in November is hardening against China, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting London and Copenhagen, to get more of the same there.
Update: The US government has ordered Beijing to close its consulate in Houston, Texas by Friday. It is unclear if the decision is directly related to the hacking charges, but a US State Department spokesperson cited a need to protect American intellectual property and information.