Agents from the Chinese government have been operating undercover in the US and using “intimidation tactics” against wanted fugitives in an attempt to send them back home, according to a recent New York Times report.
The Obama administration, as expected, is not thrilled with the activity taking place without its clearance and recently issued a warning demanding that it be ceased.
The covert government agents are another initiative of Operation Fox Hunt, a campaign aimed at hunting down fugitives who fled to the US and other countries. Forty among a list of 100 of China’s most-wanted fugitives reside in the US, most likely due to the non-existence of an extradition treaty with China.
Acknowledging that intelligence agents from China and the US have long been stationed on each other’s soils to gather political, economic, military and industrial secrets, American officials say these particular undercover operatives have been deployed by the Ministry of Public Security to put “pressure” on Chinese expatriates, some of whom are wanted for corruption and others for “political” crimes back home, and perhaps even recover illicit gains.
American officials say they tracked down the agents after speaking with Chinese expatriates and monitoring some of the agents themselves. They’re described as young, highly skilled officers who “persuade” the defectors by posing threats against their children or grandchildren back in China. They are believed to have entered the country on tourist or trade visas.
Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that China had requested for the US to return Ling Wancheng, a politically connected businessman who is believed to be in possession of “embarrassing” information about Chinese officials. It’s unclear whether China has been tracking Ling, who hasn’t been seen at his California home since May, without cooperation from US authorities.
The ex-husband of Ling’s current wife told the Wall Street Journal that he faced threats from two men who identified themselves as representatives of China’s government in June.
“If you want to protect your ex-wife, you’ll give us information,” the men said to him after approaching him at a math-tutoring center he worked at in Irving, Texas.
The recent developments are guaranteed to further strain ties between the US and China following a little incident last month in which personnel files of millions of American government workers were hacked. Officials are “nearly certain” the Chinese government is behind the data theft, according to the Times. This may also make President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the US in September slightly more awkward.