The Department of Justice charged eight people last week with working on behalf of the Chinese government to coerce a man who was wanted in Beijing into returning to China. Five of those individuals charged were arrested by the FBI.
The DOJ alleged that the defendants took part in a Chinese government operation aimed at locating fugitives abroad. U.S. officials said the operation, called a “Fox Hunt,” frequently employed intimidation and bullying tactics to go after dissidents and political opponents.
Of the eight defendants, five were arrested by the FBI at the end of October, including an American private investigator. The remaining three defendants are believed to be in China. Each person was charged with conspiring to act as illegal agents for China. The case was filed in federal court in Brooklyn.
“Without coordination with our government, China’s repatriation squads enter the sovereign territory of the United States, surveil and locate the alleged fugitives and deploy intimidation and other tactics to force them back into China, where they would face certain imprisonment or worse following illegitimate trials,” said the Justice Department’s top national security official Assistant Attorney General John Demers.
The defendants allegedly harassed the family of a former city government official in China prior to moving to the U.S. in 2010. The criminal complaint reportedly said the Chinese government accused the defendants of violating bribery and abuse-of-power laws.
The group reportedly bullied the man into returning to China, including posting a threatening note on the man’s front door. The note, written in simplified Chinese characters, said: “If you are willing to go back to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That’s the end of this matter!”
“Today’s charges reflect yet another example of China’s ongoing and widespread lawless behavior — and our refusal to tolerate it,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Simply put: It’s outrageous that China thinks it can come to our shores, conduct illegal operations, and bend people here in the United States to their will.”
The charges are one of numerous moves taken by the Trump administration against China.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department charged hackers working on behalf of the Chinese government who were targeting firms developing vaccines for the coronavirus. The Trump administration also ordered China to close its Houston consulate.