Justice Department Charges 13 Over Chinese Espionage Operations In U.S.

Justice Department Charges 13 Over Chinese Espionage Operations In U.S.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a slew of charges against Chinese nationals in what the DOJ said is part of a concerted effort by the Chinese government to undermine U.S. institutions and values.

Attorney General Merrick Garland was joined at the DOJ by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, FBI Director Chris Wray, and other top officials to announce the unsealing of several indictments targeting 13 Chinese nationals, including many Chinese intelligence officers. Garland said that two of the 13 have been arrested.

Two of the indictments were unsealed in the Eastern District of New York. One of the charging documents alleged that seven Chinese nationals hounded the victim and victim’s son to try and force the victim to return to China to face some unknown consequence. Garland said that the pressure campaign, which included “frivolous” lawsuits and threats against the victim and victim’s family, was a part of a Chinese government campaign known as “Operations Fox Hunt.”

“[Operation Fox Hunt’s] purpose is to locate and bring back to China alleged fugitives that have fled to foreign countries, including the United States. The PRC has a history of targeting political dissidents and critics of the government who have sought relief and refuge in other countries,” Garland said at a Monday press conference.

The other indictment from the federal court in New York accused two Chinese nationals, who are still at large, of attempting to bribe a U.S. law enforcement official to obtain information on a case that U.S. government is pursuing against a Chinese telecoms company. The agents allegedly offered an unnamed U.S. official $41,000 in Bitcoin to traffic information to the spies.

“This was an egregious attempt by PRC intelligence officers to shield a PRC-based company from accountability and to undermine the integrity of our judicial system,” Garland said during the press conference.

The third indictment was unsealed in the District of New Jersey. That charging document named four Chinese nationals in connection with a decade-long scheme to recruit people to operation on behalf of China in the United States. The alleged ring wanted its recruit to “provide information, materials, equipment, and assistance to the Chinese government in ways that would further China’s intelligence objectives,” the Justice Department said.

The Chinese ring at one point attempted to recruit an individual to help them quash protests along the 2008 Olympic Games torch route in the U.S. because the demonstrations could be “embarrassing to the Chinese government,” according to Garland.

“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,” Garland said. “The Justice Department will not tolerate attempts by any foreign power to undermine the rule of law upon which our democracy is based.”

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