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Chinese Spy Caper Targeting Swalwell, Khanna Said To Be Common Practice

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- An Axios article a year in the making revealed that in the early to mid 2010s, a Chinese national and Cal State East Bay student, Christine Fang was trying cozy up to Bay Area politicians.

The FBI says she was a spy with close links to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco. Among those she contacted: the now-former mayor of Fremont, Rep. Ro Khanna's (D-Santa Clara) unsuccessful 2014 campaign, and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin).

San Jose State professor Dr. Karthika Sasikumar says this form of spycraft is common. "These were individuals who were important in local politics and potentially could be really important in national politics," she told KPIX 5.

In 2015, around the time the FBI started warning politicians about Fang, she left for China and never returned.

Former Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison says he got a call from the FBI late on a Friday and sweated over what could have happened for an entire weekend.

"We don't have national secrets, we don't have special secrets, what would they think about Fremont. I get now from some of the reports that it's a long game to play. I get that," Harrison said. "They are aiming for some higher fish than me, one of the reasons I have no problem talking is I know that I didn't do anything wrong."

Rep. Swalwell didn't return our calls, but told Politico that there was never a suspicion of wrongdoing on his part and that he fully cooperated with the FBI. He also gave Politico this statement, "I've been a critic of the President. I've spoken out against him. I was on both committees that work to impeach him. The timing feels like something that should be looked at."

Dr. Sasikumar says incidents like this happen regularly. "It's important to remember that spycraft is just part of normal diplomacy. China, I'm sure is engaged in it, but so is the United States and so is every other big country and in this case actually, to me it's an example of the system working."

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