“Tell the truth about the virus, the CCP virus!” one female protester demanded in broken English on a recent afternoon, brandishing a sign suggesting that the homeowner had helped manufacture the novel coronavirus as a bioweapon. Other picketers waved posters declaring their target was a spy for China’s Communist Party.
The resident inside, Teng Biao, is an odd person to accuse of such crimes: he is a widely respected Chinese dissident and scholar at Hunter College in New York who fled China after repeatedly clashing with the authorities over his human-rights work. The daily pickets have outraged his neighbors and even the town’s mayor, who have flocked to his lawn to support him.
The circus has baffled this quiet corner of New Jersey, but Teng says he knows who organized it — Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessman in New York who has worked on various projects with former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon.
Teng and several other Chinese dissidents in North America told The Washington Post that Guo has sent protesters to harass them in recent months because they have publicly criticized Guo, who left China in 2014, before Chinese authorities accused him of bribery, fraud, rape and other crimes — charges he denies.
Guo in recent years has declared himself an enemy of the Chinese Communist Party, calling for an end to CCP rule and the founding of a New Federal State of China. His campaign has attracted tens of thousands of loyal followers online, who watch his fiery social media clips about Chinese corruption, and visit his GNews and GTV Media websites.
But recently, in a curious twist for an anti-CCP crusader, Guo began loudly denouncing Chinese dissidents in a series of videos, calling for his followers to “eliminate” roughly 20 people he deemed “traitors.” Shortly afterward, prominent dissidents from Texas and New York to Vancouver, Canada, and Virginia found their homes besieged by protesters.
Texas-based pastor Bob Fu, whose ministry provides aid to underground Christians and human-rights lawyers in China, filed a lawsuit last month in federal court alleging that Guo was unlawfully targeting him with “online death threats” and intimidating protests at his home in the West Texas oil town of Midland. At one point, Fu’s family was evacuated by local and federal authorities in response to a credible bomb threat, Fu said in an interview.
Gao Bingchen, a journalist who lives outside Vancouver, Canada, told The Post that protesters that he believes were sent by Guo began harassing him outside his home in early September, shouting obscenities and accusing him of being a spy. In late November, two of the protesters brutally attacked Gao’s friend, Louis Huang, leaving him with fractures in his face, Huang said in an interview, confirming reports in Canadian media.
Asked about the protests, Guo appeared to confirm his involvement, though he denied any role in violence.
“To be clear, I have never condoned any type of violence towards any individuals. Myself, the anti-CCP supporters, and the New Federal State of China movement are exercising our First Amendment right to expose and oppose those who support the CCP, similar to other human rights campaigns in the history of the U.S.,” Guo said in a written statement provided by his lawyer, Daniel Podhaskie.
“If there are isolated confrontations, these are the acts of individuals who are not following my ideals,” Guo said, declining to comment further.
Guo’s activities have revived debate among overseas Chinese and in Washington circles about the businessman’s aims and loyalties. Some Guo critics, including Fu and the former Peking University professor Xia Yeliang, have said they suspect that Guo could be working on Beijing’s behalf to undermine the Communist Party’s enemies. Others say he is a genuine opponent of the Party and attacks prominent dissidents to enhance his own standing and sideline rivals.
Fu said Guo’s attacks against him echoed criticism in Chinese state media, and that the list of “traitors” named by Guo include many of the Chinese government’s known enemies.
“He wants to silence me, to disrupt our ministry’s operations in China, which are the goals of the Chinese Communist Party and especially the Chinese security apparatus,” Fu said. “There is no logical conclusion other than someone has ordered him to do something destructive. It’s surreal that this would happen on American soil.”
Guo has publicly claimed past ties to Chinese intelligence agencies, stating on YouTube that he delivered messages and carried out work on their behalf in years past. Before Guo left China, the authorities there said that he enjoyed a years-long alliance with senior Chinese intelligence official Ma Jian, who received a life sentence for corruption in 2018.
Since moving to the United States, Guo has forged a relationship with Bannon, hiring him as a consultant and pledging to donate $100 million to a Bannon-led charity tasked with investigating corruption and other problems in China. This summer, Guo announced that Bannon would serve as chairman of GTV, though Guo later said that Bannon had been removed from that role after his arrest on fraud charges related to Bannon’s campaign to raise funds to help build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. When U.S. authorities arrested Bannon in August, he was relaxing on Guo’s yacht off the coast of Connecticut.
Bannon didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article. In recent months Bannon has praised Guo, calling him “the toughest Chinese opponent the CCP has ever encountered.”
As Guo’s profile has grown, Teng and other Chinese dissidents have publicly questioned the veracity of his tales and his dissident bona fides, sparking his ire.
In September, Guo donned a blue suit and recorded a video encouraging his followers to “eliminate traitors” in Canada, Japan, Taiwan and the United States, who he said had criticized and threatened him and his followers.
Guo ticked off a list of enemies including Teng; the pastor Fu; Xia Yeliang, the former Peking University professor who left China after he was fired in 2013 for criticizing party officials and supporting democratic reforms; Sasha Gong, a former journalist for Voice of America; and three employees of Boxun, a Chinese-language news site that has published critical information about Chinese leaders.
In an interview at his New Jersey home, Teng said the protesters first appeared while he was teaching an online course about human rights in China from his living room.
“I immediately realized why they were here because they have been harassing other people, other critics of Guo Wengui,” he said.
None of the protesters at Teng’s house on a recent afternoon would give their names. Asked why they had come, a woman brandished a sign accusing Teng of being a CCP spy. Asked why the group believed this, a man shouted “We have proof!” but declined to elaborate.
Another man with a tripod was filming the scene on a smartphone, and said he was broadcasting to GTV. The protesters have also posted updates about their Teng demonstration on GNews.
Teng’s neighbors and supporters said they have repeatedly asked the protesters to explain their cause but never received a straight answer.
“They yell things like, ‘He’s a spy and he’s a liar and he’s evil,’ but there’s no specifics,” said Lisa Garwood, a local resident huddling with doughnuts and coffee on Teng’s lawn. Two local religious leaders, also there to defend Teng, chatted nearby, while Teng’s friend silently filmed a documentary about the whole unorthodox scene.
One male protester “came up to me and whispered in my ear, ‘We know you’re a writer, we know who you are and we’re going to find out more,’ ” Davis said.
“This group feels to me as though it’s Q-Anon Chinese,” she added.
On Dec. 12, the mayor of West Windsor Township, Hemant Marathe, dropped by to defend Teng and admonish the protesters.
“It is really gratifying to see the neighbors and township rally in support of one of us,” Marathe said in a video posted online. “And to all of those who are here to protest, this has backfired on you, really.”
“If anything, this has generated more support” for Teng, the mayor added. “This is not the American way, to stand in front of somebody shouting insults.”
Teng said he doesn’t believe the protesters are local residents. He guessed that some had traveled to the United States from China on tourist visas, and that Guo might be pressuring some to participate, but he said he has no proof of this. Teng’s neighbors say they don’t recognize the picketers, some of whom arrive in cars with New York license plates.
Teng has been posting updates about the protesters’ machinations on Twitter, including translations of some of the vile profanities he says they have shouted.
One of Teng’s neighbors who speaks Mandarin said the protesters shouted filthy curses at him, too. They also demanded to know why he was defending Teng.
“I said, ‘I am a friend, I support my friend,’ ” said the neighbor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid attracting the picketers’ ire. “They said, 'If you’re a supporter, then you’re with him, you’re CCP, you’re also a spy and you also deserve to die and go to hell!’ They are not rational people.”
Emily Rauhala contributed to this report.