New York, Oct 28 (efe-epa).- The United States on Wednesday charged eight people with being illegal agents for the Chinese government and conducting an espionage, monitoring and harassment campaign for years against alleged “dissidents” living in US territory with the aim of forcing them to return to China.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York revealed that the accused participated in an international campaign mounted by the Chinese government known as Operation Fox Hunt and Operation Skynet in which Chinese authorities scoured the world for the alleged authors of crimes in China and tried to bring them back home to face charges.
Five of the accused, located in the states of New York and California, were arrested on Wednesday and the whereabouts of the three others are unknown but it is believed that they are back in China.
“With today’s charges, we have turned the PRC’s Operation Fox Hunt on its head – the hunters became the hunted, the pursuers the pursued,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers in a statement.
“The five defendants the FBI arrested this morning on these charges of illegally doing the bidding of the Chinese government here in the United States now face the prospect of prison. For those charged in China and others engaged in this type of conduct, our message is clear: stay out. This behavior is not welcome here,” he added.
The special agent with the Department of the Interior handling the case, Peter Fitzhugh, emphasized that despite the confirmation that the Chinese agents were pursuing Chinese dissidents for allegedly committing certain crimes there, US law enforcement and its agents are working to ensure that US law and sovereignty is respected by other countries.
According to the indictment, the individuals participated in a campaign to “threaten, harass, surveil and intimidate John Doe-1, a resident of New Jersey, and his family in order to force them to return to the PRC,” ignoring international cooperation agreements in legal and judicial matters.
Six of the accused, along with Chinese officials, participated “in a scheme to bring John Doe-1’s elderly father from the PRC to the United States (in 2017) against the father’s will and to use the surprise arrival of his elderly father to threaten and attempt to coerce John Doe-1’s return to the PRC,” authorities said.
Up until the end of 2018, several of the accused monitored and harassed via the Internet the adult daughter of the victim and placed a note on his door saying: “If you are willing to go back to mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That’s the end of this matter!”
Also, in 2019 during a period of several months they allegedly sent package to his house with letters and videos to try and force him to return to China by threatening to harm family members that still live in the PRC.
Each of the accused is facing a maximum of five years in prison if found guilty of conspiring to act as an illegal agent of China, while six of them are also facing an additional charge of conspiracy to commit interstate and international stalking, which also carries a term of five years behind bars.
Last September, federal prosecutors also accused a New York police officer of Chinese origin of spying for Beijing and providing information to the Chinese consulate about the activities of the Tibetan community in the US.