China trying to ‘undermine’ US judicial system: Top US justice officials

WASHINGTON – Top US justice officials accused the Chinese government on Monday of an unrelenting campaign by intelligence operatives to subvert the American justice system and steal commercial secrets.

Attorney General Merrick Garland and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Christopher Wray detailed three separate cases in which Beijing’s spies allegedly harassed dissidents inside the United States, tried to interfere in the prosecution of a Chinese telecommunications giant understood to be Huawei, and pressured US academics to work for them.

Thirteen Chinese nationals who allegedly worked for Beijing’s spy agencies have been indicted in the cases and two of them have been arrested.

The cases showed that 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”, said Mr Garland.

“The Justice Department will not tolerate attempts by any foreign power to undermine the rule of law upon which our democracy is based,” the top US law enforcement officer said.

Mr Garland, Mr Wray and other top justice officials spoke about the cases in a press conference in Washington one day after Mr Xi Jinping secured a historic third term as China’s leader.

US officials have tied Mr Xi to what they see as a growing effort by Chinese intelligence agencies over the past decade to steal US intellectual property and to crack down on Chinese political dissidents in the US.

Asked whether the announcements on Monday were timed to Mr Xi’s confirmation as the Communist Party of China’s all-powerful general secretary on Sunday, Mr Wray avoided any specific link.

“We bring cases when they’re ready,” the FBI chief said. “And that’s probably the simplest answer and most straightforward answer to that, as far as what signal they send.”

“If the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, continues to violate our laws, they are going to keep encountering the FBI,” he said.

In a case cited on Monday but unveiled last week, seven Chinese nationals allegedly tried to force a US resident to go back to China. Two people were arrested, but five others – all allegedly employees of Chinese intelligence agencies – remain at large, likely in China.

In the second case, two Chinese intelligence officials working from China tried to recruit a US government employee to provide them inside information on the Justice Department’s prosecution of Huawei.

In 2019, Huawei was charged with a systematic campaign to steal US trade secrets, sanctions evasion and other counts.

The two agents believed they had recruited a US government official to work for them and paid the person US$61,000 (S$87,000) worth of Bitcoin to supply internal documents related to the case against Huawei.

But the informant was in fact a double agent who worked with the FBI on the case.

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