WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has charged 13 people who tried to "unlawfully exert influence in the United States" for the People's Republic of China, U.S. officials allege.
Attorney General Merrick Garland rolled out three different cases alleging separate schemes at a news conference Monday. One case charges seven Chinese nationals with trying to forcefully repatriate a Chinese national. Four others were charged with targeting people in the U.S. to act on China's behalf. And two other men were charged with interfering in a U.S. criminal prosecution of a global telecommunications company.
The Justice Department did not name the company involved in the third case. The details of the complaint against the defendants, Guochun He and Zheng Wang, match up with a prosecution in the Eastern District of New York of Huawei, a Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer, which the U.S. previously charged with stealing trade secret and intellectual property information.
The complaint accused the pair of trying to recruit an unnamed informant whom they paid $61,000 in Bitcoin in exchange for what they believed was confidential information about the Justice Department’s investigation and prosecution of the company. Asked Monday whether Huawei had any connection to He or Wang, a Justice Department official declined to confirm the identity of the company in the complaint.
Garland said: “As these cases demonstrate, 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. The Justice Department will not tolerate attempts by any foreign power to undermine the rule of law upon which our democracy is based.”
Garland was joined by Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco; FBI Director Christopher Wray; Matthew G. Olsen, the assistant attorney general for national security; and other Justice Department officials.