The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday unsealed a complaint and arrest warrants charging eight individuals with conspiring to act as “illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)” in an “international campaign to threaten, harass, surveil, and intimidate” Chinese citizens residing in the United States to return to China.
“The defendants, allegedly acting at the direction and under the control of PRC government officials, conducted surveillance of and engaged in a campaign to harass, stalk, and coerce certain residents of the United States to return to the PRC as part of a global, concerted, and extralegal repatriation effort known as ‘Operation Fox Hunt’,” the Justice Department statement said.
Five of these defendants were arrested Wednesday morning by FBI agents and face the prospect of prison. The names of those arrested include Zhu Yong, Hongru Jin, Michael McMahon, Rong Jing, and Zheng Congying. The first three are set to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon via teleconference. The three who were not arrested “remain at large,” the statement said.
John Demers, the assistant attorney general for the department’s National Security division, said the other three are suspected to be in China, per Reuters.
“For those charged in China and others engaged in this type of conduct,” said Demers, “our message is clear: stay out. This behavior is not welcome here.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray had some additional strong words for China and other potential illegal agents of the authoritarian regime.
“The Chinese government’s brazen attempts to surveil, threaten, and harass our own citizens and lawful permanent residents, while on American soil, are part of China’s diverse campaign of theft and malign influence in our country and around the world,” he said. “The FBI will use all of its tools to investigate and defeat these outrageous actions by the Chinese government, which are an affront to America’s ideals of freedom, human rights, and the rule of law.”
Furthermore, the statement goes on to explain other aspects of this alleged plot, known within the PRC as “Operation Fox Hunt” and “Operation Skynet”:
“In furtherance of the operation, the PRC government targets Chinese individuals living in foreign countries that the PRC government alleges have committed crimes under PRC law and seeks to repatriate them to the PRC to face charges. Rather than rely upon proper forms of international law enforcement cooperation, such as Interpol ‘red notices’ and requests for information through appropriate governmental channels, the defendants allegedly engaged in clandestine, unsanctioned, and illegal conduct within the United States and facilitated the travel of PRC government officials (PRC Officials) to U.S. soil in order to further carry out these illegal acts. Between 2016 and 2019, multiple PRC Officials directed the defendants, and several others, to engage in efforts to coerce the victims to return to the PRC.”
It then details many of these specific instances where PRC government officials directed the aforementioned defendants, including one situation where they targeted a New Jersey resident and his family to try and force them to come back to China.
“The United States will not tolerate the conduct of PRC carrying out state-authorized actions on U.S. soil without notice to, and coordination with, the appropriate U.S. authorities,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme. “Nor will we tolerate the unlawful harassment and stalking of U.S. residents to further PRC objectives.”
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has a conflict of interest. She must work with her agency to combat and counter China on the world stage, all while supporting her husband’s position as a top executive for an artificial intelligence company whose major venture capital firm investor Is backed by the Chinese government.
Danhua Capital is based in California and is financially backed by the Chinese Communist Party. They are also one of the main funders of PathAI, an artificial intelligence firm that employs Raimondo’s husband, Andy Moffit. Moffit acts as the chief people officer.
The Chinese firm lists PathAI as one of its featured “biotech and health” investments on its website, although it’s unclear how much specifically Danhua Capital has invested. According to a 2018 Reuters report on the firm, Danhua Capital was established and funded as part of the Chinese government’s “penetration of Silicon Valley.”
In 2018, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) testified before Congress that Danhua Capital’s mission is to use capital to narrow the technology gap between China and the United States. The Washington Free Beacon reports that many staffers from CNAS, a liberal think tank, are now employed in the highest ranks of the Biden administration.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Raimondo’s agency was pushing back on efforts by others in the Biden administration to block Chinese technology firms from working with American companies. Commerce officials are arguing internally, according to the report, that the administration’s tougher approach to China would hurt U.S. companies.
Raimondo said on Thursday she would not urge U.S. companies to pull sponsorships from the upcoming Beijing Olympics after President Joe Biden announced a diplomatic boycott of the games over human rights abuses. “What individual companies do is entirely up to them,” Raimondo said. “We’re not going to pressure them one way or another.”
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