The Obama administration warned the Chinese government to follow United States laws when using covert agents in the U.S. to pressure expatriates to return to China. The warning comes a month before President Xi Jingping’s state visit to Washington, D.C.
China has boasted in state media about Operation Fox Hunt, the official name of the plan to bring home alleged fugitives, most political dissidents. But in a statement, Mark Toner, State Department deputy spokesman, reminded China of America’s law. CBS News reports:
“While we do not comment on specific cases, generally speaking, foreign law enforcement agents are not permitted to operate within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General,” said Toner in the statement. “In regards to China, the United States and China regularly engage on law enforcement matters of mutual concern, including fugitives and anti-corruption, through the U.S.-China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation (JLG).
“We continue to emphasize to [People’s Republic of China] officials that it is incumbent on them to provide U.S. officials with significant, clear, and convincing evidence to allow our law enforcement agencies to proceed with investigations, removals, and prosecutions of fugitives,” said Toner.
American officials are accusing China of infiltrating the country with these undercover agents to hunt down alleged fugitives. They condemned the actions, especially the use of intimidation tactics. These officials also said they have proof of agents operating in the U.S. and their illegal activities.
Liu Dong, the director of the operation, said that agents “must comply with local laws,” but nothing will stop them from completing their objectives.
“Our principle is thus: Whether or not there is an agreement in place, as long as there is information that there is a criminal suspect, we will chase them over there, we will take our work to them, anywhere,” he declared.
The BBC reported Monday morning that these agents are currently hunting Ling Wangcheng, the brother of Ling Jihua, a top aide to former President Hu Jintao. The Chinese government accused Ling Jihua “of accepting huge bribes personally and through his family.” They believe his brother fled to the U.S. in 2013 or 2014.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua lashed out at The New York Times report:
“In April 2015, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met Chinese Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun in Beijing, and they agreed to strengthen cooperation in law enforcement,” the agency wrote. “They agreed not to provide shelter for the other side’s fugitives and would try to repatriate them in accordance with law. Specifically, Johnson also promised to actively support China’s ‘Sky Net’ and ‘Fox Hunt’ operations, which aim to bring back corrupt officials. So the U.S. government’s decision to force China’s law enforcement stuff to leave the country obviously reveals that Washington lacks sincerity and has failed to translate its words into action.”
It added that the U.S. “should … by no means become a safe haven for Chinese criminal suspects.”
Department of Justice spokesman Marc Raimondi said the U.S. is not a safe haven, but insisted the Chinese government “must provide evidence” for the federal government to help locate the fugitives. He said China often does not issue any evidence the Justice Department needs.