Despite a federal injunction, an organization that says it’s opposed to the Chinese Communist Party, returned to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Wednesday to continue demonstrating against a student there and her father, according to a student video shared with The Baltimore Sun.
The group known as the New Federal State of China and organized by an exiled Chinese businessman and conservative strategist Steve Bannon, who has advised former President Donald Trump, has been targeting the UMBC student with demonstrations at the Catonsville campus since late last year, saying her father is a member of the Chinese Communist Party.
The demonstrators typically hold signs and U.S. and New Federal State of China flags and attempt to hand out flyers picturing the student and her father. The organization has doxxed the student for months, making posts about her, her father and their family. Doxxing occurs when an individual publishes someone’s personal information without permission, often with the intent of causing harm.
The demonstrations, including another one Monday, have sparked student outrage at UMBC over harassment directed toward one of their peers.
UMBC spokesperson Dinah Winnick said Tuesday that the school is aware of the group and its actions. She said the group is no longer able to reserve spaces on campus to disseminate materials as of Tuesday morning.
Winnick confirmed Thursday that the group has been on campus following the injunction, but, to university officials’ knowledge, have ceased the activities that resulted in their reservation being canceled.
“As a public institution, UMBC is open to any individual or group that complies with University policies,” Winnick said in an email Thursday. “The safety of our entire community, most especially our students, remains our highest priority.”
UMBC’s decision followed an injunction ordered Jan. 13 by a federal judge in Connecticut’s U.S. Bankruptcy Court, where Chinese businessman Guo Wengui sought protection from his creditors a year ago, according to a Reuters report. The Pacific Alliance Asia Opportunity Fund, which Guo owes $254 million, has been battling him in New York state court for years, Reuters reported. The student’s father has the same name as an executive with the company that operates the hedge fund, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
Following a petition by the hedge fund, the bankruptcy judge found that Guo “supports, encourages, and is the leader of a social media and protest campaign targeting the plaintiffs, their counsel, and their relatives, at personal homes and workplaces,” Reuters reported.
Guo had argued that there’s no evidence he was behind the protests and a prior restraining order violated his First Amendment right to free speech, Reuters reported.
The injunction bars the defendants from engaging in protesting, picketing, parading or distributing “harassing material at any time” in the vicinity of several locations, including an undisclosed address in Baltimore. The injunction states the group must remain 36 feet from “any entrance of the Protected Parties’ offices or workspaces (which may include universities and schools).”
Winnick said the group’s activity is no longer allowed on campus because university policy requires compliance with federal, state and local laws.
UMBC sophomore Luna Siesko, who goes by she/it pronouns, said the university’s response to student concerns about the group has been “minimal.” Siesko said she’s worried the university could show similar complacency should another group come to campus to harass and protest her existence as a transgender person.
“I’m disappointed in UMBC that they didn’t do anything about it,” Siesko said. “I think it’s disgusting that they know that there’s this targeted harassment campaign going on against someone who, according to students on campus, might not even be here right now. ... [If] UMBC truly cared about the safety of its students, it wouldn’t be allowing this to happen.”
In an email sent Tuesday evening to students, UMBC Vice President for Student Affairs Nancy Young said the school previously followed school procedures for reserving and using campus space with the New Federal State of China demonstrators.
The Evening Sun
“As a public institution, UMBC abides by the protections for speech and assembly that are afforded by the First Amendment,” Young wrote.
But now, Young noted, the federal injunction prevents the group from making such reservations.
In December, Siesko conducted a counterprotest with friends in an effort to share the New Federal State of China’s history with students and explain “why it was a bad thing” for them to conduct such demonstrations on campus, she said. Following the counterprotest, a New Federal State of China member took to social media with photos of the students and suggested that Siesko, her friends and the student group Anti-Imperialist Action at UMBC were agents funded by the CCP.
Founded by Guo and Bannon in 2020, the New Federal State of China has called itself a government in exile of China. The two also founded GTV Media Group, an alternative Chinese news platform, through which Guo has spoken about the Chinese Communist Party’s crimes, according to The New Yorker, and that also promulgated misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reported.
GTV and several affiliates settled charges by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2021 that it conducted an illegal unregistered offering of GTV common stock, agreeing to pay more than $539 million.
Reuters reported that Guo tried to drop his bankruptcy case last May saying he couldn’t afford it, but the judge wouldn’t allow it after other creditors objected.
Baltimore Sun reporter Lillian Reed contributed to this article.
A previous version of this article incorrectly reported the date of the injunction filed against Guo Wengui in bankruptcy court. The Sun regrets the error.