The entrance to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, damaged in an arson fire on New Year's Day. (Sara Bloomberg/KQED)
The entrance to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, damaged in an arson fire on New Year’s Day. (Sara Bloomberg/KQED)

The man accused of trying to set fire to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco on New Year’s Day reportedly told FBI agents he attacked the building because he had been hearing voices “and the … consulate had to have been involved.”

According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court over the weekend, Yan Feng, 39, called Daly City police on Friday and “identified himself as the individual who ‘made the fire’ in front of the Chinese Embassy.'” Daly City police arrested Feng the same day and held him for questioning by a team of FBI agents.

The affidavit said Feng, a Chinese national, admitted filling three containers with gasoline and splashing it on the front door and front steps of the Laguna Street consulate. He is said to have told agents he tried to light the fuel with his passport. When that didn’t work, the affidavit says, he lit the gasoline with a cigarette lighter.

As to his motive, the affidavit says:

“Yan Feng … stated in substance that he targeted the Chinese Consulate because all the voices he had been hearing were in Chinese and the Chinese Consulate had to have been involved.”

At a press conference today, FBI officials emphasized the case was not politically motivated or a terrorist incident, a point echoed by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.

“It was so important to close this matter quickly so that anybody couldn’t make of it more than it was,” Suhr said.

Feng faces two counts of maliciously damaging property by means of fire and willfully damaging property belonging to or occupied by a foreign government. He’s scheduled to appear in federal court on Tuesday.

Here’s the FBI affidavit released today:


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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