The US charged two Chinese intelligence officers on Monday with trying to obstruct the prosecution of a Chinese-based telecommunications firm as it rolled out three separate cases against Beijing.
The two alleged Chinese spies were identified as Guochun He and Zheng Wang. They have been charged with seeking to carry out a scheme that involved stealing information from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York to stymy the prosecution of the Chinese telecommunications company.
“This was an egregious attempt by PRC intelligence officers to shield a PRC based company from accountability and to undermine the integrity of our judicial system,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference alongside senior Justice Department officials.
The Justice Department did not identify the firm, but Huawei was charged in 2019 with bank fraud, and faced racketeering charges in 2020.
The Justice Department said He and Wang tried to bribe a US government employee they believed had been recruited to secretly work for China. In all, they paid the individual $61,000 in Bitcoin, but that person had been working as a double agent for the FBI, according to the department.
The defendants attempted “to steal the prosecutor’s playbook, including who the prosecutors were meeting with, and what they would argue in court all so that the company could unlawfully gain an edge and undermine the government’s case,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said.
He and Wang were charged with obstruction of justice while He was separately charged with two counts of money laundering related to the Bitcoin payments. Both men remain at large.
Separately, the Justice Department announced two other cases against Chinese-based individuals with charges against 13 people, 10 of whom FBI Director Christopher Wray identified as Chinese intelligence officers and government officials.
“They’re charged in three different cases that might seem at first glance to be about unrelated issues,” Wray said. “Each of these cases lays bare the Chinese government’s flagrant violation of international laws as they work to project their authoritarian view around the world, including within our own borders.”
In a case unsealed in New Jersey, four individuals, including three Ministry of State Security spies, were charged with illegally acting as foreign government agents that sought to “target, co-opt and direct individuals in the United States to further the PRC’s intelligence mission,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said, referring to China by its formal acronym.
The plot involved a decade-long campaign beginning in 2008 that used a fake Chinese academic institution to recruit American professors, a former federal law enforcement and homeland security official, as well as others, to obtain sensitive information and technologies on behalf of the Chinese government.
The agents also sought to prevent protests in the US that Garland said “would have been embarrassing to the Chinese government.” That included US-based demonstrations along the Olympic Games torch route in 2008 when China hosted the summer games, according to the Justice Department.
“We also see a coordinated effort across the Chinese government to lie, cheat and steal their way into unfairly dominating entire technology sectors, putting competing US companies out of business,” said Wray.
In New York, another indictment charged seven individuals with carrying out a multi-year campaign of threats and harassment known as Operation Foxhunt that sought a US resident to return to China
The campaign’s “purpose is to locate and bring back to China alleged fugitives who have fled to foreign countries, including the United States,” said Garland.
“The PRC has a history of targeting political dissidents and critics of the government who have sought relief and refuge in other countries,” he said.
In addition to the victim, the campaign threatened the individual’s family in the US and China, including forcing the individual’s nephew to travel from China to the US “to convey the PRC’s threats to the victim’s son.”
“They made clear that their harassment would not stop until the victim returned to China,” said Garland.
Two of the defendants were taken into custody on Thursday.
“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. They did not succeed,” he added.