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U.S. charges 13 in cases that involve alleged plots to advance Chinese interests

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 24.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 24.

Updated October 24, 2022 at 3:38 PM ET

The Justice Department has announced charges against 13 people, including suspected Chinese intelligence officers, in three separate cases that involve various alleged plots to advance Chinese interests in the United States.

The prosecutions are the latest example of the Justice Department's efforts to combat what U.S. officials say is a relentless effort by Beijing to steal American secrets and technology, and to covertly push China's interests in the United States.

"As these cases demonstrate, the government of China sought to interfere with the rights and freedoms of individuals in the United States and to undermine our judicial system that protects those rights," Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference. "They did not succeed."

Two of the cases were filed in federal court in the Eastern District of New York.

In one, two suspected Chinese spies are charged with trying to obstruct a federal investigation into a China-based global telecommunications company.

The company is not named but the information in the charging document aligns with the Chinese tech giant Huawei, which was indicted in New York in 2019.

The defendants, Guochun He and Zheng Wang, are accused of attempting to direct an employee of a U.S. law enforcement agency to obtain confidential information about witnesses, trial evidence and potential new charges to be brought against the company.

According to court papers, the duo believed they had recruited a U.S. law enforcement official to steal the inside information about the prosecution. They provided the officials with thousands of dollars in Bitcoin payments.

The official, however, was actually a double agent who was passing false information under the supervision of the FBI.

Wang and He are charged with one count of obstruction of an official proceeding and two counts of money laundering.

In the other case in New York, seven Chinese nationals who were allegedly working on behalf of the Chinese government were indicted for taking part in an alleged years-long campaign of threats and harassment to force a U.S. resident to return to China. Two of the individuals are in U.S. custody.

Garland said the defendants were part of the Chinese government's extralegal effort known as "Operation Fox Hunt," which he said aims to track down alleged fugitives abroad, including in the U.S., and return them to China.

That effort, however, often targets political dissidents and critics of Beijing who have sought refuge in other countries, Garland said.

In the case unsealed in New Jersey, four people — including three alleged Chinese intelligence officers — are charged with conspiring to act as illegal agents in the U.S. on behalf of China's government. The defendants are accused of trying to direct individuals in the U.S. to further China's interests.

"The Justice Department will not tolerate attempts by any foreign power to to undermine the rule of law upon which our democracy is based," Garland told reporters. "We will continue to fiercely protect the rights guaranteed to everyone in our country. And we will defend the integrity of our institutions."

The announcement comes about three months after the Justice Department filed charges over a political operation aimed at spreading Russian propaganda designed to influence U.S. elections. Late last year, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran over its attempts to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.
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