The Communist Party of China is using an allegedly anti-corruption police operation known as “Fox Hunt” to pressure and threaten ethnic Chinese people around the world, including some in America, to return home and face prison, FBI Director Christopher Wray alleged on Tuesday.
Wray was speaking at an event at the Hudson Institute think tank, detailing the various threats that China poses to safety and freedom in America. Wray called the Communist Party “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality” and a challenge to “our health, our livelihoods, and our security.”
Bizarrely, Wray concluded remarks in which he claimed China had stolen billions in intellectual property and was working to precipitate the collapse of America by asserting that the United States should not stop cooperating with the Communist Party.
Chinese dictator Xi Jinping launched “Operation Fox Hunt” in 2014 as a program allegedly meant to catch economic fugitives abroad such as corrupt former Party leaders and businessmen with ties to the regime. Wray insisted that the operation was instead “a sweeping bid by General Secretary Xi to target Chinese nationals whom he sees as threats and who live outside China, across the world.”
“We’re talking about political rivals, dissidents, and critics seeking to expose China’s extensive human rights violations,” Wray noted. “Hundreds of the Fox Hunt victims that they target live right here in the United States, and many are American citizens or green card holders. The Chinese government wants to force them to return to China, and China’s tactics to accomplish that are shocking.”
Wray shared the story of one alleged victim of “Fox Hunt” whose family the Communist Party targeted.
“For example, when it couldn’t locate one Fox Hunt target, the Chinese government sent an emissary to visit the target’s family here in the United States. The message they said to pass on? The target had two options: return to China promptly, or commit suicide,” Wray noted. “And what happens when Fox Hunt targets refuse to return to China? In the past, their family members both here in the United States and in China have been threatened and coerced, and those back in China have even been arrested for leverage.”
Xi Jinping described Fox Hunt corruption stings as part of a larger “mass line” campaign – using a term popularized by mass murderer Mao Zedong for the first wave of communists defending authoritarianism in any nation in 2014. A year later, the head of the program – a deputy at the Ministry of Public Security – revealed that Beijing was largely staffing the program with young agents sent to spy abroad, a necessity given the long travel hours. In an interview with state propaganda outlet Xinhua, the official boasted of the capture of dissidents in Nigeria, at the time near the epicenter of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in west Africa.
The New York Times reported at the time that President Barack Obama chided Chinese officials about “Fox Hunt” related harassment of people in the United States, but this warning had no apparent effect on Chinese Communist Party behavior.
Last year, the Chinese government bankrolled a propaganda film titled Fox Hunt to celebrate the global persecution, reportedly meant also to claim Interpol had a large role to play in it. An analysis by the Heritage Foundation accused the film of openly flaunting China’s abuse of Interpol’s “red notice” system, which requests that members arrest an individual at the behest of a state.
The Communist Party abducted the president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, in October 2018, and has since sentenced him to 13 years in prison on vague accusations of corruption.
The “Fox Hunt” accusations echo alarming claims made by Uyghur-American communities that the Communist Party, dominated by China’s Han ethnic majority, have persecuted ethnic Uyghurs around the world by infiltrating diaspora communities with spies and threatening their relatives at home in Xinjiang, where the Communist Party has placed up to three million Muslim ethnic minority group members in concentration camps.U.S. Department of State / YouTube
“The goal of the Chinese government’s harassment is to discourage and disrupt political activism among Uyghurs living abroad, replicating the system of control that exists in their homeland,” Nury Turkel, a Uyghur-American attorney now a part of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told Congress in 2018. “Threatening retaliation against family members who remain within the borders of China is one of the Chinese government’s primary tools.”
In his remarks Tuesday, Wray spent much of his time discussing intellectual property theft and forced transfers of technology – instances in which Chinese nationals, or others working for Beijing, knowingly stole profitable information later used to sink American competition.
“We’ve now reached the point where the FBI is opening a new China-related counterintelligence case about every ten hours,” Wray said. “Of the nearly 5,000 active FBI counterintelligence cases currently underway across the country, almost half are related to China. … And over the past decade, we’ve seen economic espionage cases with a link to China increase by approximately 1,300 percent.”
Last year, Wray said that the FBI was engaging in about 1,000 intellectual property theft investigations relating to China, thus representing about a fourth of all FBI counterintelligence cases.
Wray indicted China’s “Thousand Talents” program in particular, which recruits spies in academia to steal key research and technological development at American universities, and Chinese double agents in American companies that he claimed worked for cells “established in some American companies operating in China as a cost of doing business there.”
“Confronting this threat effectively does not mean we shouldn’t do business with the Chinese,” Wray concluded. “It does not mean we shouldn’t host Chinese visitors. It does not mean we shouldn’t welcome Chinese students or coexist with China on the world stage. But it does mean that when China violates our criminal laws and international norms, we are not going to tolerate it, much less enable it.”