But instead of returning the individuals under proper global law enforcement methods, federal prosecutors said the defendants engaged in illegal conduct to coerce their targets back to China.
In 2018, a note was allegedly placed on the front door of John Doe's house telling him that he should return to China, face 10 years in prison and his family would be left alone.
"With in the present day's costs, we have now turned the PRC's Operation Fox Hunt on its head - the hunters turned the hunted, the pursuers the pursued", Assistant Lawyer Common for Nationwide Safety John Demers stated throughout a digital information convention.
Demers said that while Operation Fox Hunt may target legitimate criminal suspects in some cases, in others it is used simply to hunt down and intimidate political rivals and critics. "Fox Hunt is a sweeping bid by General Secretary Xi and the Chinese Communist Party to target Chinese nationals here in the United States and across the world who are viewed as threats to the regime".
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday charged eight individuals with conspiring to act as illegal Chinese agents, and have arrested five of the suspects.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers and FBI Director Christopher and Ray attend a virtual press conference at the Department of Justice in Washington on October 28. The last three defendants - Zhu Feng, Hu Ji, and Li Minjun - remain at large. They are said to have contained letters and a video with messages aimed at coercing his return to China by threatening to harm family members still residing there.
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Three of the defendants - Cho Young, Hongro Jin and Michael McMahon - were arrested Wednesday in NY and New Jersey.
The Justice Department announcement comes at a time of rising tensions between the United States and China over the coronavirus pandemic, which President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed on Beijing.
The five arrested defendants were identified as Zhu Yong, Hongru Jin, Michael McMahon, Rong Jing and Zheng Congying.
In the case announced Wednesday, prosecutors said the defendants over a period of several years harassed the family of a man who had been a city government official in China before arriving in the US 10 years ago. The hunters became the hunted, the pursuers pursued, "Demers said, adding that the USA reaction was clear".
"The Chinese government's brazen attempts to surveil, threaten, and harass our own citizens and lawful permanent residents, while on American soil, are part of China's diverse campaign of theft and malign influence in our country and around the world", said FBI Director Christopher Wray".
The Chinese government enlisted Americans and USA permanent residents for a "large-scale and wide-ranging conspiracy" to strongarm a Chinese fugitive to return to his homeland, according to the Department of Justice. "That's the end of this matter!" the note read.