The US announced charges against eight individuals, accusing them of conspiring to work on behalf of Beijing by taking part in an "international campaign to threaten, harass, surveil and intimidate" Chinese citizens to return to their home country, the US Justice Department said in a published complaint on Wednesday.
“[I am here] to announce charges against eight individuals for acting as agents of the People’s Republic of China while taking part in an illegal Chinese law enforcement operation known as Fox Hunt here in the United States", the DoJ's National Security division Assistant Attorney General John Demers told reporters on Wednesday.
According to Demers, five of these individuals have now been arrested. Other, he said, are believed to be in China.
The court records, cited by Reuters, claimed that the goal of the "Fox Hunt" operation was to target Chinese nationals living abroad and force them to return to the country to face charges. Demers believes this was done in an attempt to "silence" Beijing's critics.
"Today's charges reflect yet another example of China's ongoing and widespread lawless behavior", FBI Director Christopher Wray commented on the news.
Back in July, Wray said that Chinese intelligence agents have pressured "hundreds" of Chinese nationals living in the United States to return to the motherland as a part of this covert activity set to "suppress dissent" among the diaspora, while often resorting to direct threats.
According to the FBI, the operation was directed by the China’s ministry of public security after being launched six years ago by President Xi Jinping.
For its part, Beijing describes the operation as an international anti-corruption campaign aimed at tracking down corrupt citizens who have fled abroad.