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Olympian Alysa Liu and father were targets of Chinese spying

Alysa Liu (Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

U.S. Olympic figure skater Alysa Liu and her father, Arthur Liu, were among those targeted in a spying operation that was ordered by the Chinese government, according to the Justice Department.

Liu told The Associated Press late Wednesday that he was contacted by the FBI in October. They warned him about the scheme as the younger Liu was preparing for the Beijing Olympics that took place in February. Liu said that he did not tell Alysa about the situation so as not to scare her or distract her from competing.

“We believed Alysa had a very good chance of making the Olympic team and truly were very scared,” Arthur Liu said.

Earlier Wednesday, the Justice Department announced charges against five men who are accused of acting on behalf of the Chinese government. Those charges include a series of schemes that are centered on stalking and harassing Chinese dissidents in the United States. Arthur Liu is a former political refugee, having escaped to the U.S. after protesting the Communist government after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

In allowing his daughter to compete at the Games, Liu said that his family was taking a stand against the bullying being done by the Chinese government. Liu placed seventh in the women’s event.

“This is her moment. This is her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games. I’m not going to let them stop her from going, and I’ll do whatever I can to make sure she’s safe and I’m willing to make sacrifices so she can enjoy the moment,” Liu said. “I’m not going to let them win — to stop me — to silence me from expressing my opinions anywhere.”

According to Liu, Alysa was closely monitored and kept safe while in Beijing. She had at least two people escorting her at all times.

“They are probably just trying to intimidate us, too… in a way threaten us not to say anything, to cause trouble to them and say anything political or related to human rights violations in China,” he said. “I had concerns about her safety. The U.S. government did a good job protecting her.”

In a statement to AP, the USOPC said that the safety and security of U.S. athletes “is our number one priority.”

While at the Olympics, Alysa told her father that she was approached by a stranger at a cafeteria after the free skate. The man followed her and asked her to come back to his apartment.

“I’ve kind of accepted my life to be like this because of what I chose to do in 1989, to speak up against the government. And I know the Chinese government will extend their long hands into any corner in the world,” Arthur Liu said. “I’m going to continue to enjoy life and live life as I want to live. I’m not going to let this push me down, and I’m not going to let them succeed.”