A national is charged with attempting to threaten and coerce supposed Chinese fugitives living legally in the U.S. to return to China, according to unsealed Wednesday.
Sun Hoi Ying, 53, operated in the U.S. from February 2017 to February 2022 as he hired private investigators and conspired with at least one U.S. law enforcement officer to gather personal information on targets of the Chinese government, according to a release by U.S. Attorney Damian Williams. He remains at large in China.
In one instance, Sun, with the help of a local U.S. law enforcement officer, threatened and pressured an individual in New York City who was targeted by the Chinese government with claims that certain adverse and retaliatory actions would be taken if the person didn’t comply with Beijing’s demands.
In another instance, Sun hired private investigators to collect a victim’s personal information that the PRC government published in a list of dissident targets. While Sun was collecting that information, the victim’s daughter, a U.S. citizen who was pregnant at the time, was held against her will in China for approximately eight months, prosecutors said. Government officials told the victim not to request help from Washington and that she would not be allowed to leave China until she convinced her relative to return to China.
The charge against Sun Hoi Ying was contained in a Manhattan federal court criminal complaint created as part of an FBI probe of individuals working at the direction of Beijing to pressure individuals in the U.S. and elsewhere to return to China.
Williams said Sun’s actions were part of what the People’s Republic of China government labeled “Operation Fox Hunt” when it announced in July 2014 that it was going to pursue and repatriate Chinese nationals.
The latest case is part of a trend of what the and Justice Department have described as “transnational repression” — episodes in which agents of a foreign government have sought to silence dissidents living in the U.S.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department five people with acting on behalf of the Chinese government in a campaign to stalk, intimidate and silence activists or dissidents of the government, including a congressional candidate in New York.
In a 2020 case introducing the Fox Hunt investigation, prosecutors charged eight people in a Chinese government pressure campaign aimed at coercing a New Jersey man who was wanted by Beijing into returning to China to face charges.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.