China accuses US of slandering its efforts to pursue suspects overseas

China said on Friday the United States was slandering its efforts to pursue criminal suspects overseas after a Chinese prosecutor was charged in an alleged plot to intimidate Chinese citizens living in the US to return home and face criminal charges.

China urged the US to cooperate with China in its efforts and not become “a haven for criminals”, foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a regular news briefing.

Zhao said the US is home to the largest number of suspects accused of corruption and economic crimes in China.

Earlier, the US Justice Department had announced the indictment of two further alleged Chinese agents for their roles in Operation Fox Hunt, which Washington says is an operation targeting Beijing’s opponents overseas.

Nine defendants have been charged with “acting as and conspiring to act as unregistered agents” of China in the global operation, the department said.

According to US authorities, Operation Fox Hunt involves extra-judicial “repatriation squads” that operate clandestinely in an attempt to force expatriates to return to China.

Tu Lan, 50, who served as a prosecutor with the Hanyang People’s Procuratorate, is the latest defendant in a sprawling investigation that has led to charges against nine people accused of participating in a covert operation to conduct surveillance on, harass, stalk and coerce Chinese people living in the United States to return to China through a repatriation effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt.”

In October, five people were arrested for having “participated in an international campaign to threaten, harass, surveil, and intimidate” an unnamed Chinese target living in the US.

According to the indictment, the defendants brought the target’s father to the United States to use in order to persuade him to return to China.

They also harassed his adult daughter to add pressure and delivered threatening messages. 

The justice department said a note was affixed to the target’s residence in September 2018, stating: “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!”

The mission was unsuccessful, according to US authorities.

Officially, the targets are people wanted by the Chinese judicial system for corruption. But Washington has accused the operation of targeting dissidents and opponents of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

The target from Thursday’s case was wanted by Beijing for embezzlement, abuse of government power, and accepting bribes, which can carry hefty sentences in China, the Justice Department said.

The charge of acting as unregistered agents of China comes with a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

All the defendants have also been charged with engaging and conspiring to engage in interstate and international stalking.

(With inputs from agencies)