The FBI arrested five people in three states Wednesday, accusing them of taking part in a campaign to "harass, stalk, and coerce" Chinese people in the U.S., including political dissidents, to return to China.
Federal prosecutors said the five, plus three others in China, were part of an international operation called "Fox Hunt," described by the Chinese as an anti-corruption campaign that seeks to locate fugitives.
But John Demers, assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's National Security Division, said, "In many instances, the hunted are opponents of Chinese Communist Party Chairman Xi — political rivals, dissidents, and critics."
The five arrested Wednesday, including a former New York City police officer working as a private detective, were accused of trying to force a New Jersey man — listed in court documents only as John Doe-1 — to return to China. At one point, the charges said, representatives of the Chinese government brought the man's elderly father, against his will, to the U.S..
Court documents said those charged also photographed and sent harassing messages to the man's daughter and put a note on this door that said, "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!" They also threatened to harm his family members still living in China, the charges said.
"It's outrageous to think that China thinks it can come to our shores, conduct illegal operations, and bend people here in the United States to their will," said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
One of the men was arrested in New Jersey, two in New York, and two in California, said Seth DuCharme, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District in New York. He said the charges, of illegally acting as agents of a foreign government and traveling interstate for stalking, were the first of their kind for an allegation of this nature.