The US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday charged eight individuals with conspiring to act as illegal Chinese agents, and have arrested five of the suspects. According to an official release by DOJ, a complaint and arrest warrants were unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging eight defendants with conspiring to act in the United States as illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), out of which six defendants also face related charges of conspiring to commit interstate and international stalking.
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 suspects were identified as Zhu Yong, Hongru Jin, Michael McMahon, Rong Jing, Zheng Congying, Zhu Feng, Hu Ji and Lin Minjun. Yong, Jin and McMahon were arrested today and will be arraigned this afternoon via teleconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo, while Jing and Congying were arrested in the Central District of California, and their initial appearances will take place in that district later today. Feng, Ji and Minjun remain at large.
According to the complaint, the defendants participated in an international 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, as part of an international effort by the PRC government 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, stated the DOJ release.
The release further added that 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 US soil in order to further carry out illegal acts.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C Demers said: “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…. 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.”
“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,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“Today’s announcement of these charges further highlights the FBI’s ongoing and aggressive commitment to investigate China’s efforts to illegally impose its will in the United States….This case should serve as a reminder to the People’s Republic of China that when it directs criminal activity within our borders, the FBI and its law enforcement partners will make sure the perpetrators are held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. of the FBI Newark Field Office.
The release also stated that between 2016 and 2019, multiple PRC Officials have directed the defendants, and several others, to engage in efforts to coerce the victims to return to the PRC, including surveillance and coercion, targeting and harassment of victims’ daughter, and continued harassment of victims.