Federal authorities in New York announced they have charged seven people, including five who live in the People’s Republic of China, with the harassment of a Chinese national and his family living in the U.S. Charges include acting as agents of a foreign government, violations of the Travel Act and money laundering conspiracy.
“As alleged, the defendants engaged in a unilateral and uncoordinated law enforcement action on U.S. soil on behalf of the government of the People’s Republic of China, in an effort to cause the forced repatriation of a U.S. resident to China,” United States Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. “The United States will firmly counter such outrageous violations of national sovereignty and prosecute individuals who act as illegal agents of foreign states.”
The effort Peace described in his statement is known as “Operation Fox Hunt.” The FBI describes Operation Fox Hunt as an illegal global effort by China to locate and repatriate alleged fugitives who flee to foreign countries.
“The victims in this case sought to flee an authoritarian government, leaving behind their lives and family, for a better life here,” Michael Driscoll, the assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said in a statement. “That same government sent agents to the United States to harass, threaten and forcibly return them to the People’s Republic of China.”
According to an indictment, in addition to harassment, the defendants forced a relative of the Chinese national to travel from China to the U.S. to try to convince him to return. They also allegedly sent letters threatening “severe legal punishments” and sued the man and his son in New York, alleging the man had stolen money from his employer in China.
The indictment comes as fears are rising over China interfering in legal matters beyond its own borders. Reports have indicated China has set up dozens of “overseas police service centers” worldwide, including in New York City.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.