Yan Xiong, a retired Army chaplain from Brooklyn, holds a...

Yan Xiong, a retired Army chaplain from Brooklyn, holds a sign and prays with parishioners outside a Christian Orthodox Church in Lviv, Ukraine on March 11. Credit: Xiong Yang

The news of the week on Long Island suggests it is no longer possible for Americans to collectively "withdraw from the world" — or adhere to anything reasonably described as isolationism.

Criminal complaints were unsealed against five people who allegedly acted as agents of China’s secret police to silence or intimidate pro-democracy activists such as Yan Xiong, a retired U.S. Army chaplain. Notably, he was a student leader in the Tiananmen Square democracy demonstrations of 1989. Unknown to either major U.S. party’s politicos in Suffolk County, Yan Xiong registered last year as a Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat. He’d lived in Westbury then, but told Newsday on Wednesday that he’s moved back to Brooklyn and would seek to run for Congress there.

If the feds are correct, it defies expectations that alleged operatives of the People’s Republic found their way to Nassau County’s North Shore. Among the defendants in the case, announced by U.S. Attorney Breon S. Peace, are Fan Liu, 62, of Jericho, and Matthew Ziburis, 49, of Oyster Bay.

Just a short ride over into Queens was another defendant, Shujun Wang, 73, who, federal authorities say, was working for the Beijing government — yet helping lead a foundation honoring former Chinese Communist Party leaders who advocated for reforms and were forced out of power.

This organization, called the Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang Memorial Foundation, lists an address in an office building on Main Street in downtown Flushing.

Domestic and international political intrigues blur in this case.

An FBI filing before the criminal complaint said the People’s Republic of China sought "to prevent the candidate from drawing additional public attention to himself and his political speech," specifically through an operative based in China.

National political attention, meanwhile, was dominated this week by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealing to President Joe Biden and members of Congress to up U.S. military help against Russia’s "inhumane destruction" of his country.

The upsurge of sympathy and solidarity that Ukrainian refugees, fighters and civilians have drawn, and the U.S. debate over what to do, runs counter to a more isolationist U.S. role that some envisioned after our departure from Afghanistan only last August.

"I wish you to be the leader of the world," Zelenskyy told America. "Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace."

Three weeks ago, the invasion was felt on the ground immediately in Nassau and Suffolk. In Mineola, demonstrators gathered outside the Nassau County Legislature. There were special prayers at the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Hempstead. The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America sought to help communication from the home country.

Now, as Vladimir Putin’s horrific, unprovoked siege goes on, all things relevant to Russian government operations earn a place in the spotlight.

The State Department is reviewing whether Russian diplomatic property has been used for commercial purposes. If so, that could affect its tax-exempt and diplomatic immunity status, Newsday reported.

Those questions involve a trucking company called Lyuks Express (lyuks is "luxury" in Russian) linked to addresses at longtime Russian Federation properties including the Killenworth Mansion in Glen Cove and other diplomatic sites in the Bronx and Manhattan.

Other puzzling little facts, and maybe some larger ones, will no doubt make themselves known as the global keeps meeting the local.

Columnist Dan Janison’s opinions are his own.


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