The US Justice Department announced Thursday the indictment of two further alleged Chinese agents for their roles in an operation targeting Beijing’s opponents in the United States.
Nine defendants have been charged with “acting as and conspiring to act as unregistered agents” of China in a global operation dubbed “Fox Hunt,” aimed at repatriating alleged fugitives, the department said.
In October, five people were arrested in the United States for having “participated in an international campaign to threaten, harass, surveil and intimidate” an unnamed Chinese target living in the United States.
The new indictment includes prosecutor Tu Lan, 50, accused of having traveled to the United States in 2017 to direct “the harassment campaign” and of later obstructing the US investigation.
According to US authorities, Operation Fox Hunt involves extra-judicial “repatriation squads” that operate clandestinely in an attempt to force expatriates to return to China.
Officially, the targets are people wanted by the Chinese judicial system for corruption. But Washington has accused the operation of targeting opponents of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, dissidents or critics.
The targets were wanted by Beijing for embezzlement, abuse of government power and accepting bribes, which can carry hefty sentences in China, the Justice Department said.
According to the indictment, the defendants brought the target’s father to the United States to persuade him to return to China, harassed his adult daughter to pressure him and delivered threatening messages.
In September 2018, the department said, a note was affixed to the target’s residence stating: “If you are willing to go back to mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That’s the end of this matter!”
The mission was unsuccessful, according to US authorities.
The charge of acting as unregistered agents of China comes with a maximum sentence of tens years in prison.
All the defendants have also been charged with engaging and conspiring to engage in interstate and international stalking.