Three men were convicted Tuesday for their roles in stalking the New Jersey family of a former Chinese official in the late 2010s on behalf of the Chinese government, part of “Operation Fox Hunt,” an effort by Chinese officials to repatriate fugitives and regime critics.
A federal jury in Brooklyn found all three defendants—including a retired New York Police Department sergeant—guilty of stalking, and one of the defendants was convicted of acting as an illegal foreign agent, the Associated Press reported.
The prosecutors argued that, starting in 2016, former NYPD officer Michael McMahon and the two other defendants—Chinese citizens living in the U.S. with green cards—harassed former official Xu Jin and his wife Liu Fang with the intention of getting them to return to China, where Xu was charged with corruption and embezzlement.
Throughout the trial, the men denied that they knew they were working for China, and McMahon’s lawyers said he thought he was working for a private company trying to “recoup money,” the New York Times reported.
A lawyer for defendant Zhu Yong, who was found guilty of acting as an illegal foreign agent, said in court before jury deliberations the men were “also victims” who were “used by a very sophisticated government.”
The trial against the three defendants went on for three weeks, and the jury headed to deliberation last week. McMahon’s lawyers said he completed five days of surveillance over six months and looked up information and records on where the couple was living. Later, after they’d identified where he lived, the men placed a threatening note on Xu’s door. Defendant Zheng Congying’s lawyer said he realized it was a mistake and tried to return and take the note back the next day, but it had already been received. In closing statements last week, one prosecutor said the stalking was “a relentless campaign by the Chinese government to scare Xu Jin and Liu Fang into returning to China” and the defendants “surveilled, they stalked, they threatened and they terrified” the family,” the Times reported.
What To Watch For
This was the first case of several tied to “Operation Fox Hunt” schemes, in which the U.S. alleges Chinese law enforcement tried to repatriate regime critics. Federal prosecutors have accused Chinese operatives of spying on dissidents, opening a secret “police station” in New York and denigrating a congressional candidate. The U.S. has called the scheme “transnational repression” designed to harass and threaten critics who no longer live in China, but the Chinese government argues it is trying to pursue fugitives and has denied using intimidation tactics, accusing the U.S. of using “slanders and smears.”
3 Are Convicted of Harassing Family on Behalf of China’s Government (New York Times)
Jury Weighs Case of Men Accused of Stalking US Residents for China (New York Times)
Former New York police sergeant convicted of acting as Chinese agent in ‘Fox Hunt’ trial (Reuters)
3 men convicted in US trial that scrutinized China’s ‘Operation Fox Hunt’ repatriation campaign (AP News)