Chinese Spies Indicted for Coercing Nationals Living in U.S. to Return as Agents of the PRC

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The U.S. Justice Department has charged 13 Chinese individuals, including members of China’s espionage and intelligence network, with attempting to strong arm nationals living in the U.S. to return to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as government agents.

Eight-Count Indictment Returned

The charges were levied in three separate cases in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern District of New York and the District of New Jersey. In the Eastern District of New York, an eight-count indictment was unsealed on Oct. 20 charging seven PRC nationals with participating in a scheme to cause the forced repatriation of a PRC national residing in the U.S.

The defendants are accused of conducting surveillance of and engaging in a campaign to coerce a U.S. resident to return to the PRC as part of an international extralegal repatriation effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt.”

The campaign is part of a coordinated effort across the Chinese government to dominate entire technology sectors, putting competing U.S. companies out of business, U.S. officials said.

Four Chinese Nationals Charged

In the District of New Jersey, an indictment unsealed on October 24, charged four Chinese nationals, including three Ministry of State Security (MSS) intelligence officers, in connection with a long-running intelligence campaign targeting individuals in the U.S. to act as agents of the PRC.

A criminal complaint also unsealed on October 24 in federal court in Brooklyn, charged two People’s PRC intelligence officers with attempting to obstruct a criminal prosecution in the Eastern District of New York. Ten of the 13 charged individuals are Chinese intelligence officers and Chinese government officials. It is not known if the alleged perpetrators engaged in digital espionage in carrying out the operation.

Federal law enforcement stressed that the cases again showed the degree to which Chinese nationals will go to spy on the U.S.

FBI Director Christopher Wray offered the following statement:

“These indictments of PRC intelligence officers and government officials – for trying to obstruct a U.S. trial of a Chinese company, masquerading as university professors to steal sensitive information, and trying to strong-arm a victim into returning to China – again expose the PRC’s outrageous behavior within our own borders. The FBI, working with our partners and allies, will continue to throw the full weight of our counterintelligence and law enforcement authorities into stopping the Chinese government’s crimes against our businesses, universities, and Chinese-American communities.”

Two of those charged in the three cases have been arrested. The others remain at large. The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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