US slanders effort to bring criminals to justice, Beijing says, as Chinese prosecutor charged over intimidating citizens to return

Washington is slandering the government’s efforts to pursue criminals overseas, Beijing has said, after a Chinese prosecutor was charged in the US over an alleged plot to bully citizens into returning to China.

The US Justice Department charged the Chinese national, identified as Tu Lan, on Thursday. The man, who has served as a prosecutor with the Hanyang People’s Procuratorate, became the ninth accused in the US case over an alleged covert operation known as “Operation Fox Hunt.”

The operation, said to have been launched around 2014, allegedly involved surveillance, stalking and harassment of Chinese nationals living in the United States in an attempt to make them return to China. The prosecutor has allegedly traveled to the US to personally direct the “stalking” of some of the country’s residents. Tu Lan is also accused of ordering another ‘co-conspirator’ to destroy evidence and to obstruct investigation.

“As alleged, the defendants, acting as agents of the PRC, carried out an illegal and clandestine campaign to harass and threaten targeted U.S. residents in order to force them to return to the PRC,” Acting US Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis said.

Unregistered, roving agents of a foreign power are not permitted to engage in secret surveillance of US residents on American soil, and their illegal conduct will be met with the full force of US law.

To repatriate any wanted criminals, the Chinese authorities should have cooperated with the US government, filing due paperwork, and should have registered with the Attorney General, Kasulis noted.

China’s foreign ministry responded to the charges on Friday, dismissing them as an attempt to slander its efforts at repatriating criminals. Speaking at a regular press briefing, the ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged the US to correct its “mistakes.”

The case over alleged Chinese covert activities on US soil was first announced last October. So far, charges have been brought against nine individuals, primarily Chinese nationals, as well as New York City-based private investigator and former police sergeant Michael McMahon.

The latter denies all the charges, with his legal team denying that he “ever knew that, in his actions as a hired private investigator, he was acting in any way on behalf of the Chinese government.” The private eye had actually been “deceived and duped” to partake in the alleged plot by other co-conspirators, Lawrence Lustberg, McMahon’s attorney, told Reuters.

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