China blasts US charges against agents seeking man's return

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The US Department of Justice says it has charged eight defendants, including Chinese nationals, with involvement in an illegal campaign by the Chinese government to coerce US residents who had fled China to return to the country.

Five of the eight, including an American private investigator who was hired as part of the effort, were arrested Wednesday. The remaining three are believed to be in China.

They face charges of "conspiring to act in the United States as illegal agents of the People's Republic of China".

US Assistant Attorney General John Demers had said after the arrest of the agents that in "many instances, the hunted are opponents of Communist Party Chairman Xi" and called the operation "a clear violation of the rule of law and worldwide norms".

In July, the Ministry of Justice accused hackers working with the Chinese government of targeting companies developing vaccines for the Coronavirus and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in intellectual property and trade secrets from companies around the world. The administration also ratcheted up tensions over the summer by ordering China to close its consulate in Houston.

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Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray said there are likely many more victims of Operation Fox Hunt and urged them to reach out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In April 2017, they forced the first victim's elderly father to travel to the U.S and sought to use his unexpected arrival to coerce the victim to return to China.

Alongside those charged in the case, the criminal complaint said three unnamed Chinese officials had also conspired in the scheme, either by directing the operation from China or travelling to the United States to oversee the execution of the scheme.

One case involved a man identified only as "John Doe-1", a resident of New Jersey accused by China of abuse of government power and accepting bribes. "Fox Hunt is a sweeping bid by General Secretary Xi and the Chinese Communist Party to target Chinese nationals here in the United States and across the world who are viewed as threats to the regime".

The alleged harassment the family endured included receiving a threatening note that read: "If you are willing to go back to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That's the end of the matter!"

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A spokesman from the Chinese embassy did not have an immediate comment in response to the allegations. The message explained that the target had two options: either return to China promptly or commit suicide. The move follows similar recent designations for the Confucius Institutes and more than a dozen Chinese state media outlets operating in the US. "Instead, it's more like something we'd expect from an organized criminal syndicate", Wray said.

The Chinese government enlisted Americans and US permanent residents for a "large-scale and wide-ranging conspiracy" to strongarm a Chinese fugitive to return to his homeland, according to the Department of Justice. In addition, six defendants face charges related to conspiring to commit global and interstate stalking.

Of the five defendants arrested today, two were Americans and three were USA permanent residents with Chinese citizenship.

A federal judge in NY on Wednesday ordered McMahon to be released on a $500,000 bond secured by a New Jersey property.

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