A Chinese spy worked in the United States to track down so-called “fugitives” and pressure them to return to the People’s Republic of China as part of a global Chinese plot dubbed “Operation Fox Hunt.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Wednesday that Sun Hoi Ying, also known as Sun Haiying, 45, acted as an agent for the Chinese Communist Party in the United States from at least February 2017 to February 2022.
Working on orders from the Chinese government, Sun allegedly pressured, threatened and collected the personal information of individuals described by the PRC as “fugitives.” The Chinese spy provided 35 names of alleged PRC fugitives to a private investigator in the U.S., including an American citizen – referred to as “Victim-1” – who previously lived in China.
As Sun gathered information on his targets, Victim-1’s pregnant daughter (Victim-2), who is also a U.S. citizen, was “held against her will in the PRC for approximately eight months.” After she was finally released, Victim-1’s daughter, her spouse and her child attempted to return to the United States, but Chinese officials told Victim-2 she could not leave because her mother was a “fugitive” and so she was subject to an “exit ban.”
A Chinese official told Victim-2 that she must help them get Victim-1 to return to the PRC, that she was barred from discussing the “exit ban” with the United States government, and that the U.S. Embassy could not help her status in China.
Victim-2 explained that she was pregnant and wanted to deliver her baby in the United States, but the Chinese officials said she would give birth in China “if the conditions were not yet met for the ‘exit ban’ to be lifted.”
“The Chinese government takes advantage of our freedoms — freedoms they deny their own citizens — to advance their authoritarian regime, and calls uncomfortable truths about their behavior rumors and lies,” Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division said in a statement. “There’s nothing false about seeing example after example of the Chinese government’s underhanded and illegal behavior here in the United States. I urge anyone to contact the FBI if you feel you’re a victim of the Chinese government’s illegal Fox Hunt activities.”
Sun is charged with one count of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General, and one count of acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General. He is facing a maximum of 15 years in prison.
“This case demonstrates, once again, the PRC’s disdain for the rule of law and its efforts to coerce and intimidate those it targets on our shores as part of its Operation Fox Hunt,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen said in a statement. “The defendant allegedly traveled to the United States and enlisted others, including a sworn law enforcement officer, to spy on and blackmail his victims. Such conduct is both criminal and reprehensible.”