Axios broke the story on Fang, alleging she had sexual and romantic relationships with two unnamed Midwestern mayors, including one in Ohio. She also forged political connections with a host of local and national politicians, among them a U.S. congressman, according to Axios.
The report has led to speculation in the Buckeye State over the Ohio mayor’s identity, but it hasn’t been revealed. That mayor was only one of Fang’s targets as she built up a political rolodex in a suspected “long game” espionage operation. “She used political gatherings, civic society conferences, campaign rallies, and campus events to connect with elected officials and other prominent figures,” Axios reported.
She drove around the Bay Area in a white Mercedes, cultivating political connections with her charismatic personality and positions in student organizations at a local college, according to Axios.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. U.S. Officials Now Believe Fang Spied for China Over a 4-Year Period, Reports Say
The Axios report indicates that U.S. officials now believe Fang was an operative in a “political intelligence operation run by China’s main civilian spy agency between 2011 and 2015.”
Fang is a Chinese national who also uses the name Fang Fang, Axios reported, while adding that it’s not believed she ever obtained classified material during the operation.
She attended U.S. mayors’ regional conferences to build her connections, according to Axios, and authorities became aware of Fang when she had contact with another person they already had under surveillance, the outlet reported. She returned to China in 2015 after an FBI probe was started.
2. Representative Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, Was Among Fang’s Alleged Targets
Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, was one of Fang’s alleged targets, the Axios investigation revealed, as she “helped place at least one intern” in his office.
According to The New York Post, Swalwell is refusing to say whether he had sex with Fang. That allegation was lodged by Donald Trump Jr. on Twitter. Swalwell claimed to Politico that the story was leaked because he’s been critical of President Donald Trump.
“Rep. Swalwell, long ago, provided information about this person — whom he met more than eight years ago, and whom he hasn’t seen in nearly six years — to the FBI,” Swalwell’s office said in a statement to Axios. “To protect information that might be classified, he will not participate in your story.”
According to The Hill, Fang was also a volunteer for the 2014 campaign of Representative Ro Khanna and appeared in photos with Swalwell, Khanna, then-Representative Mike Honda and Representative Judy Chu, all Democrats.
According to Daily Mail, Fang did fundraising for Swalwell and U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat.
Khanna’s office told the Hill that Fang’s name isn’t in 2014 campaign staffing records.
3. The Midwestern Mayor Angle Has Ohio Buzzing
The Axios report did not name the two Midwestern mayors allegedly involved in romantic or sexual relationships with Fang.
“Which Ohio mayor had a sexual encounter with an alleged Chinese spy in a car under FBI surveillance?” CityBeat asked, adding, “That’s the question that has Ohio politicos and political journalists positively aflutter today, with conjecture flying wildly via texts and DMs.”
The article doesn’t answer the question, however.
Fang engaged in sexual or romantic relationships with at least two mayors of Midwestern cities. … At a 2014 conference in Washington, an older Midwestern mayor ‘from an obscure city’ referred to Fang as his ‘girlfriend’ and insisted the relationship was genuine despite the clear age difference between Fang and himself. … Fang also had a sexual encounter with an Ohio mayor in a car that was under electronic FBI surveillance. … When the mayor asked why Fang was interested in him, Fang told him she wanted to improve her English.
4. Fang Was Enrolled in College & President of the Chinese Student Association There
Fang was enrolled at California State University, East Bay, according to an archived web page that lists her getting the “pioneer pride award.” She’s listed as “Fang Fang from the Chinese Student Association.” She also was president of the campus chapter of Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA), Axios reported.
“Traditionally, this award honors students and student organizations that have demonstrated outstanding Pioneer Pride in the campus community,” according to the announcement on the Cal State East Bay website.
One Facebook post she shared in 2012 read, “As young members of APAPA, our association helped to set up the Congresswoman Judy Chu’s meeting in Cupertino Community Hall.”
5. Fang’s Facebook Page Shows Glamour Shots & a Beauty Pageant Picture
Fang’s Facebook page is still up, although there are no publicly visible posts. Eric Swalwell’s father and brother, Khanna and a California mayor are still among her Facebook friends.
The page includes glamour shots and pictures from a beauty pageant.
She updated her profile and cover photos in November 2020. “Wow!Beautiful and classy as always!!Looking fabulous,Christine!!” a California man wrote. She responded with thanks.