WASHINGTON – The Justice Department on Wednesday accused eight people of conspiring on behalf of the Chinese government to harass, persecute and intimidate Chinese citizens into returning to their home country.
Five were arrested by the FBI on Wednesday while the other three are believed to be in China, John Demers, assistant attorney general for the Department of National Security at the Department of Justice, said during a virtual press conference.
According to the complaint unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday, the defendants participated in an "international campaign to threaten, harass, monitor and intimidate New Jersey resident John Doe-1 and his family in an attempt to force them to return . " People's Republic of China."
The international campaign called "Operation Fox Hunt" is part of the Chinese government's global campaign to reduce the country's diaspora.
"Operation Fox Hunt is just one of the many ways China is violating the rule of law," Demers said.
"We turned Operation Fox Hunt of the PRC on its head. The hunters became the hunted, the pursued," Demers said, adding that the US response was clear.
"To those indicted in China and others dealing with this type of behavior, our message is clear: stay out there. Your behavior is not welcome here," Demers said.
In addition to Demers, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, "The FBI is proud that this investigation culminates in criminal charges, the first of its kind to help China understand the surveillance, stalking, harassment and blackmailing of our citizens and lawful permanent residents comes with serious risks, "said Wray.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, the Chinese government warned Washington it might arrest Americans in China in response to the Justice Department's persecution of Chinese military scholars, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Beijing's warnings followed a series of arrests of Chinese scientists doing research at American universities. The Justice Department accused her of hiding her active service status with the People's Liberation Army from US immigration authorities.