US arrests five ‘Chinese agents’ accused of coercing dissidents

Department of Justice reveals details of ‘Operation Fox Hunt’ aimed at silencing Chinese Communist Party opponents in the US

The US on Wednesday announced the arrest of five people it said were Chinese agents and charged three others for harassing and coercing dissidents on American soil.

The charges were part of the US Department of Justice's investigation into "Operation Fox Hunt" run by the People's Republic of China to try to send home opponents of the Chinese government.

“With today’s charges, we have turned the PRC’s Operation Fox Hunt on its head. The hunters became the hunted, the pursuers the pursued,” assistant attorney general John Demers said.

Mr Demers called the charges “an unambiguous statement that the United States will not tolerate this type of flagrant conduct on our shores”.

FBI director Christopher Wray said: “China is violating norms and laws left and right."

Four of the arrested are Chinese nationals on US soil working for Beijing, the complaint said, while three are Chinese nationals outside believed to be in China, and one is a US accomplice.

The four are Hongru Jin, Zhu Yong, Rong Jing and Zheng Congying.

The US accomplice is Michael McMahon, a New Jersey private investigator.

They all face charges for trying to coerce dissidents to go back to China and face punishment.

“The defendants, allegedly acting at the direction and under the control of PRC government officials, conducted surveillance of and engaged in a campaign to harass, stalk and coerce certain residents of the United States to return to the PRC as part of a global, concerted, and extralegal repatriation effort,” the complaint read.

The complaint accused them of conspiracy to act as illegal agents of the PRC between 2016 and 2019.

One of the victims was given the choice of returning to China or committing suicide, Mr Wray said.

“The defendants participated in an international campaign to threaten, harass, surveil and intimidate John Doe 1, a resident of New Jersey, and his family in order to force them to return to the PRC,” the Department of Justice said.

The arrests were made in New York and New Jersey.

They come at a moment of tense relations between the US and China over hacking accusations, trade differences and accusations of meddling in internal affairs.