US Department of Justice Charges 13 Chinese Agents; Makes Two Arrests

The US Department of Justice has announced that 13 Chinese agents have been charged in three separate cases. In connection with this development, two Chinese nationals were arrested. FBI Director Christopher Wray summarized the three cases:

“These indictments of PRC intelligence officers and government officials [are] 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.”

On October 20, the Eastern District of New York charged seven Chinese nationals; two were arrested and five remain free. Working at the behest of China’s Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection, these individuals stand accused of participating in a scheme to forcibly return a Chinese national residing in the US to the PRC. In a bid to achieve this goal, the indicted Chinese agents conducted a protracted campaign of harassment, intimidation and coercion against the victim and their family – one letter sent by the Chinese agents to the victim reads “coming back and turning yourself in is the only way out”. This was just one part of China’s Operation Fox Hunt campaign which aims to forcibly repatriate Chinese nationals.

The second federal indictment saw four Chinese nationals charged in the District of New Jersey. Of these, three were agents of the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS); they used the Institute for International Studies at Ocean University of China as cover for their operation. From at least 2008, the MSS officers tried to recruit American residents and nationals to serve as operatives for China and to steal sensitive information. The cell also interfered in US domestic politics; in 2008, it attempted to stop protests along the Olympic torch’s travel route through the US before the Beijing Olympics.

The last two nationals were a pair of Chinese intelligence officers charged with “attempting to obstruct a criminal prosecution” by a court in Brooklyn.  The agents reportedly attempted to bribe a US official with over $40,000 in Cryptocurrency in a bid to steal documents related to an ongoing case against Huawei from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

According to US Attorney General Merrick B. Garland:

“As these cases demonstrate, the government of China sought to interfere with the rights and freedoms of individuals in the United States and to undermine our judicial system that protects those rights. They did not succeed. The Justice Department will not tolerate attempts by any foreign power to undermine the Rule of Law upon which our democracy is based. We will continue to fiercely protect the rights guaranteed to everyone in our country. And we will defend the integrity of our institutions.”

The full Department of Justice release is available here.