(Headline USA) Nine U.S. residents have been arrested and accused of spying for China.
The defendants received an indictment from a federal grand jury in New York for “acting and conspiring to act in the United States as illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China,” among other charges.
“As alleged, the defendants, acting as agents of the PRC, carried out an illegal and clandestine campaign to harass and threaten targeted U.S. residents in order to force them to return to the PRC,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis. “Unregistered, roving agents of a foreign power are not permitted to engage in secret surveillance of U.S. residents on American soil, and their illegal conduct will be met with the full force of U.S. law. To the extent the PRC seeks to repatriate its citizens to the PRC, its agents are required to register with the Attorney General of the United States, coordinate with U.S. officials, and adhere to U.S. laws and protocols.”
The news comes at a time of tense relations with China and as President Joe Biden fends off accusations of being weak on China. His climate change policies have been criticized for catering to the Chinese economy, and some have called him soft on China, compared to his predecessor Donald Trump.
“As noted in the superseding indictment, the Chinese government sent operatives to America to harass, surveil, and coerce U.S. residents to return to China. These acts are undemocratic, authoritarian, and contrary to the rule of law,” said Alan Kohler, assistant director for the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “The FBI will continue to protect those who are victims of harassment and intimidation by the government of China, or any other government practicing these tactics.”
The Department of Justice released more information about the arrests. Their official release lays out the details of China’s scheme:
As alleged, in and around 2012 and 2014, the PRC government caused the International Criminal Police Organization, aka Interpol, an inter-governmental law enforcement organization, to issue “Red Notices” for John Doe #1 and his wife, Jane Doe #1. According to the Red Notices, John Doe #1 was wanted by the PRC government for “embezzlement, abuse of power [and] acceptance of bribes” which carried a maximum possible penalty of death under PRC law. Jane Doe #1 was wanted by the PRC government for “accepting bribes” which carried a maximum possible penalty of life imprisonment under PRC law.
As alleged, the nine defendants participated in an international campaign to threaten, harass, surveil and intimidate John Doe #1 and his family, in order to force John Doe #1 and Jane Doe #1 to return to the PRC as part of “Operation Fox Hunt,” a PRC Ministry of Public Security initiative to locate and repatriate alleged Chinese “fugitives” who had fled to foreign countries, including the United States. Instead of operating with the approval and coordination of the U.S. government, PRC government officials carrying out Operation Fox Hunt traveled to the United States and directed non-official operatives in the United States to engage in violations of U.S. criminal law. Specifically, between approximately 2016 and 2019, PRC government officials, including defendant Tu Lan, the PRC prosecutor, and Hu Ji, a PRC police officer with the Wuhan Public Security Bureau, traveled to the United States and directed other defendants to engage in unsanctioned and illegal conduct on behalf of the PRC to coerce the targeted victims to return to the PRC.
As further alleged in the superseding indictment, a centerpiece of this criminal scheme was an April 2017 effort, directed by PRC officials Tu Lan and Hu Ji, to transport John Doe #1’s elderly father from the PRC to the United States to convey a threat to John Doe #1 that his family in the PRC would be harmed if he did not return to the PRC. At the direction of Tu Lan, Hu Ji and others, several defendants worked to investigate, surveil and locate John Doe #1 and his wife. Tu Lan then traveled to the United States along with John Doe #1’s father and a medical doctor, Li Minjun. While in the United States, Tu Lan directed several conspirators to surveil John Doe #1 and his family so the defendants would know where to bring John Doe #1’s father to deliver the demand that John Doe #1 return to the PRC. Afterwards, Tu Lan returned to the PRC, where she continued to supervise the operation with Hu Ji and other PRC officials, directed other U.S.-based conspirators to continue stalking John Doe #1 and then ordered the return of John Doe #1’s father to the PRC after their attempts to render John Doe #1 and Jane Doe #1 were unsuccessful.