China Media Says U.S. Arrest of Five 'Illegal Agents' Is Pre-Election 'Political Attack'

Chinese state media has condemned the U.S. arrest of five people accused of acting as illegal agents for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Those arrested are allegedly part of an operation to coerce Chinese fugitives back to the country to face charges.

The FBI changed eight and arrested five people Wednesday involved in China's anti-corruption "Operation Fox Hunt," which has been targeting Chinese citizens abroad accused of a range of economic crimes since 2014. The three not arrested remain at large in China.

The CCP has been cracking down on corruption and economic crimes since President Xi Jinping took power. Not even senior party officials have been spared long jail terms and huge fines in Xi's efforts to purge the CCP of corruption. Hundreds of Chinese citizens have returned to China to face charges—some voluntarily, others forcibly.

The Justice Department said the campaign was designed to "harass, stalk and coerce" U.S. residents to return to China, including those who fled China to escape prosecution. U.S. officials have said that the CCP is using the operation to target political dissidents.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the campaign is "part of China's diverse campaign of theft and malign influence in our country and around the world." Methods of coercion included leaving threatening notes on a target's front door, and forcing another's elderly father to travel to the U.S. to pressure them to return.

But Chinese state media dismissed the charges as a politically-motivated stunt and accused the U.S. of protecting criminals. Global Times—a CCP controlled newspaper often used to air the most nationalistic rhetoric from within the party—said in an op-ed published Thursday that the arrests were "outrageous."

"The U.S. is one of the few countries with the highest concentration of economic criminals and corrupt officials fleeing from China," Global Times wrote. "But it is also one of the Western countries that is the least willing to cooperate with China's anti-corruption operations."

"Analysts generally believe that an important reason the U.S. is unwilling to cooperate with China's 'Operation Fox Hunt' is that it welcomes, or does not hate, corrupt Chinese officials," the op-ed read, with no analysts named.

"These corrupt officials have not only violated Chinese laws, but they have also brought a great deal of money to the U.S. Depositing unknown sums of cash there benefits the U.S. economy. Therefore, the U.S. has no real intention to help China arrest these criminals at all."

Global Times said the arrests were politically motivated. "The U.S. has deliberately found faults with China by making a big move to arrest five fox hunters just before the election," it wrote.

"The U.S. has crossed the bottom line regarding bilateral ties by arresting the five fox hunters. This is a political attack against China under the cover of so-called legal operations."

China, US, charges, FBI, fox hunt, corruption
FBI Director Christopher Wray takes part during a virtual news conference at the Department of Justice on October 28, 2020 in Washington, D.C. SARAH SILBIGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/Getty