Writer: Lois

Photo: People’s Public Security News

Various China experts believe the CCP uses Operation Fox Hunt to show the Chinese population that they are all subject to the regime’s control. 

John Demers, the US National Security Division of the Justice Department’s Former Assistant Attorney General, states the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Operation Fox Hunt reflects their authoritarian and coercive nature. 

“If proceeds of corruption are laundered here, from China or any other country, we will investigate and, if we can, prosecute,” said Mr Demers, “But some of these people didn’t do what they are charged with having done. And we also know that the Chinese government has used the anti-corruption campaign more broadly within the country with a political purpose.”

“We have seen an acceleration of efforts across the range of malign Chinese government behaviour. There is a real change, I think, in the assertiveness and even the brazenness of some of this activity.”

A report by non-profit human rights group Freedom House states China’s repatriation initiative is the most sophisticated, global, and comprehensive campaign of transnational repression in the world. 

However, in the past American authorities have attempted collaboration with Chinese authorities to find fugitives. Some were deported back to China, while others were convicted for crimes committed in the US, like money laundering. 

Nevertheless, CCP authorities claim the absence of an extradition treaty between China and the US makes the nation an ideal refuge for so-called runaway criminals. 

Yet US national security officials say CCP operatives have stalked hundreds of innocent people over the past seven years, including US citizens and permanent residents. Like Hu Ji’s case in 2016 (mentioned in Part One of this series), Chinese agents slip into the target’s countries of residence and recruit accomplices from among local professionals. For places like Vietnam and Australia, these CCP spies abducted the wanted persons. However, in the US, such missions are not as easy to carry out. Hence, US targets are often coerced, like subjecting their relatives in China to cruel treatment. This treatment includes torture, harassment and imprisonment, which may also be filmed and sent to the target. 

“They use pressure, leverage, threats against family, they use proxies,” said Bradley Benavides, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Deputy Assistant Director and chief of its counterintelligence division’s China branch.

“Certainly, they are good at getting what they want.”

Teng Biao, a human rights lawyer and guest professor at the University of Chicago, says Chinese dissidents fear the threat to their families most. 

“Almost every Chinese overseas has at least one family member living in mainland China. Our fear is that our family will be targeted; they will have trouble. We have to worry about the personal safety of family members in China. That’s why we have to practice self-censorship,” said the professor.

“You have to understand the Chinese intelligence services. They will tap literally anyone with access in the community where the fugitive may be hiding and working. China has the largest security apparatus in the world,” an Asian American former counterintelligence official said.

In April, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated the bureau has over 2,000 active China-related investigations. He also said economic espionage cases increased by 1,300 per cent, with a new China investigation every 10 hours.

The US Justice Department’s China Initiative has brought charges against former CIA officers, a US-born professor, Chinese military officials and a Zoom executive in China who intervened in online commemorations of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

ProPublica. July 22, 2021. Operation Fox Hunt: How China Exports Repression Using a Network of Spies Hidden in Plain Sight.

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