Last week, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) uncovered three cases, which accused five people, including Chinese Americans and Chinese nationals, of “stalking, harassing and spying” on Chinese dissidents in United States on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of Justice. State Security (MSS), sending shockwaves through overseas Chinese communities.
According to the DOJ press release, MSS is “more than an intelligence collection agency. It executes the Chinese government’s efforts to limit free speech, attack dissidents, and preserve the power of the Communist Party. The MSS is known to deploy illegal tactics to intimidate political rivals and dissidents of the Communist Party in China. But in recent years, the MSS has felt emboldened to extend its long arms across the Chinese border to suppress dissenting voices abroad.
Other nations seeking to repatriate criminals to foreign countries typically go through official channels by working with local legal systems. But China has decided to take matters into its own hands. He launched Operation Fox Hunt and Operation Sky Net in 2014. These programs aim to bring overseas Chinese “criminals” back to China, bypassing the justice systems of other countries.
China claims to have successfully brought to justice more than 8,000 “criminals” in China. Among those captured are senior Chinese officials, businessmen accused of committing financial crimes and political dissidents.
Given that the Chinese justice system has a conviction rate of nearly 100%, no one who has been forced to return should expect to receive due process or a fair trial. MSS’s effrontery has effectively intimidated many overseas Chinese from speaking out on sensitive political issues, fearing that they or their families in China will face government retaliation.
The MSS often sends undercover Chinese police or security officers overseas, working with locally recruited spies or pressuring Chinese immigrants for help. According to one report, “In countries like Vietnam and Australia, Chinese agents have simply abducted their prey, whether dissidents or those accused of corruption. But in the United States, where such kidnappings are more difficult, the Fox Hunt teams have mainly relied on coercion.
The United States and China do not have an extradition treaty. Unsurprisingly, the United States is the main target of Fox Hunt and Sky Net of MSS. FBI Director Christopher Wray said these programs “are not the actions we expect of a responsible nation state. Instead, it sounds more like something we would expect from an organized crime syndicate. Furthermore, he pointed out, “it is outrageous that China thinks it can come to our shores, carry out illegal operations, and bend people here in the United States to their will.”
In October 2020, the Trump administration’s DOJ charged eight people, including seven Chinese nationals (one of whom was a police officer from Wuhan, China), with forcing a Chinese man from New Jersey to return to China to do facing “criminal charges”. The intimidation campaign took place between 2016 and 2019, which included “the online surveillance and harassment of the man’s adult daughter, unsolicited packages sent to the man’s home and a threatening note left stuck on his front door.
The DOJ charges last week included three cases. One case involved a Chinese national attempting to disrupt the political campaign of a naturalized US citizen by planning acts of violence. The target was a student leader of the Tiananmen protests who fled to the US and is currently a candidate for US Congress.
The second case involved a Chinese American who used his support for the pro-democracy movement as a cover to spy on other Chinese pro-democracy activists and report their activities and information to Beijing. According to the DOJ, at least one activist it reported — a Hong Kong democracy activist — was later arrested in Hong Kong. The victim in the third case was Arthur Liu, the father of US figure skating Olympian Alysa Liu. Arthur fled China after leading student protests in 1989.
The day before the DOJ disclosed these cases, a Chinese dissident who was also an immigration lawyer in New York was murdered by a Chinese woman on a student visa. The victim was Li Jinjin, who came to the United States after spending two years in prison for his participation in the 1989 pro-democracy protest in Beijing. So far, Li’s murder has been treated as an ordinary homicide. But given Li’s political activism and what we know about the MSS, his murder has raised many questions.
Chinese immigrants feel trapped between a rock and a hard place. The CCP thinks it owns us and can control what we say and do no matter where we live. We don’t know who to trust in the Chinese community because Chinese government agents and spies are among us. Some in our community are voluntarily doing the government’s dirty bidding, and others are being pressured because their families and loved ones back home have been threatened.
Whatever their reasons, these agents and spies endanger all of our safety, especially people like me who are quick to criticize the CCP for the evil it does. We know that we are constantly being watched. Every time we speak out, we put our families and ourselves at risk. Who knows what kind of diabolical plots are planned against us.
Outside of the Chinese-American community, we don’t always feel welcome. Criminals see us as easy prey. Anti-Asian hate crimes continue to rise in some of America’s most progressive cities (see here and here). No matter how long we’ve lived in the United States, some Americans treat us like perpetual strangers who don’t belong. Others believe that all people of Chinese descent are Chinese government spies and constantly question our American patriotism.
In today’s politically divided America, those of us who choose to support the Republican Party fall to the bottom of the racial hierarchy of the American left. The left-wing media has no interest in publishing our work or making our voice heard, because how dare we not follow the example of the left but insist on our thoughts and beliefs?
I’m troubled by the “cancelling everything Russian” madness after Russia invaded Ukraine. Seeing Russian artists, athletes, and even cats boycotted is a disturbing experience. So many Americans do not want to separate the Russian people from the oppressive regime.
I can’t help wondering if China invades Taiwan or enters into a direct military conflict with the United States, will there be a “Cancel All Chinese” movement? Will I be obliged to defend my patriotism? Will left and right nullify me or my books and writings? How many friends will I have left?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I only know that many Chinese Americans feel trapped in an unwinnable situation with hostility on all sides. All I can do is use my platform to urge everyone not to judge all Chinese Americans with a Chinese government defined group label or group identity.
Ayn Rand reminded us: “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Each of us is responsible for our own words and behaviors. Condemn and criticize when there is clear evidence to support your judgement, but please don’t blame it on all of us indiscriminately. As these DOJ cases have demonstrated, most of the victims of CCP attacks are people of Chinese descent.
This article originally appeared on “Helen Raleigh Speaks”.