Number of Chinese secret agents soars in US: officials

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
China’s president Xi Jinping is expected to make his first state visit to Washington in September. (file photo)

The number of Chinese government secret agents operating in the United States has increased in the last several months, US officials say.

The agents, from the Ministry of Public Security, China's security service, are allegedly sent to the US on a secret mission to hunt down and repatriate fugitives--some of whom wanted in China.

US officials charged Wednesday that the spike in secret activities reveals China’s lack of concern for US laws.

The agents have successfully forced several fugitives to return to China, where they will face corruption charges, they told CNN.

The agents enter the US on tourist and business visas and do not report their presence to US authorities as required by law, officials said.

The US State Department has issued a warning to Chinese officials in recent weeks, demanding a halt to the operations.

The New York Times reported that the White House is angered by “strong-arm tactics,” including intimidation and threats, which the Chinese agents deploy to bring fugitives home.

The warning to Beijing is expected to complicate Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Washington next month.

China has said that it is not violating any treaty with the United States and its program, dubbed Operation Fox Hunt, is aimed at fighting corruption among government officials.

Chinese news media previously reported that the government has sent scores of security agents abroad to “persuade” their targets to return home. Beijing has reportedly handed a list of targets to several countries including the US, Australia, France, Canada and the UK.

Washington and Beijing are at loggerheads over other issues, including cyber security and China's devaluation of its currency.

US officials have accused China for the alleged theft and revelation of personal information of over 20 million Americans from government databases.

The White House is reportedly weighing its options to retaliate against China for the cyber attack earlier this year on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Administration officials argue that the attack was so vast in scope that the usual measures for dealing with traditional espionage cases do not apply.


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