A Chinese national named Sun Hoi Ying was charged in a criminal complaint for working as an illegal agent for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) inside the United States. He allegedly was responsible for barring a pregnant US citizen from leaving the PRC due to her father being pursued by Sun.
Court documents released last Wednesday in the Southern District of New York said that Sun Hoi Ying, also known as Sun Haiying, operated in US territory as an official PRC agent from February 2017 to February 2022 without informing the US attorney general as mandated by law.
Sun Hoi Ying allegedly tracked down, investigated, pressured, and threatened individuals labeled as “fugitives” as part of the Chinese government’s “Operation Fox Hunt.” He had allegedly spied on the lives of a number of individuals in an effort to take them back to China forcibly.
“The PRC government launched a campaign dubbed ‘Operation Fox Hunt,’ a global plot to repress dissent and to forcibly repatriate so-called ‘fugitives’ – including citizens living legally in the United States – through the use of unsanctioned, unilateral, and illegal practices,” US Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York said.
“We allege Mr. Sun, as part of that campaign, attempted to threaten and coerce a victim into bending to the PRC’s will, even using a co-conspirator who is a member of local US law enforcement to reinforce that the victim had no choice but to comply with the PRC government’s demands,” Williams added.
According to Williams, the Chinese spy even enlisted the help of a US law enforcement officer in pursuing one of his victims. More so, he also hired a private investigator to gather personal information on Operation Fox Hunt targets. Sun Hoi Ying provided 35 names, including US citizens, to the investigator to help him collect information on them.
“As alleged, Sun Hoi Ying, acting at the direction of the PRC government, engaged in a range of activities designed to pressure individuals in the United States to return to the PRC to face charges brought by the Chinese government,” Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll of the FBI’s New York Field Office said.
If proven guilty, Sun faces up to 15 years in prison. He has been charged with one count of “conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General” and one count of “acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General.”
Sun’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorneys Kyle A. Wirshba and Matthew J.C. Hellman for the Southern District of New York with the help of Trial Attorney Scott Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. The FBI’s New Field Office is also investigating Sun’s case.
Some of Sun’s Victims
Sun’s list of names included Victim-1, a US citizen that previously resided in China while working at a Chinese firm. The Chinese government accused Victim-1 of embezzlement. According to the complaint, Sun’s private investigator conducted surveillance on Victim-1’s residence and provided them to Sun.
While Sun was collecting information, Victim-1’s daughter, who we will call Victim-2 (a US citizen), was held against her will in China for around eight months. Victim-2, who was pregnant at that time, attempted to leave the PRC in October 2016 with her spouse and child. Her companions were able to go back to the US, a Chinese prosecutor barred her from leaving, and she was subsequently put under an “exit ban.”
The prosecutor told Victim-2 that the ban was the consequence of her father’s “fugitive” status. According to her, she was prohibited from leaving China until she agreed to help bring Victim-1 (her father) back to the PRC. She was also instructed not to share the details of her exit ban with US officials and was told that the US Embassy could not help her situation. Victim-2 intended to deliver her baby in the US but was disallowed to leave unless the demands were met.
— FBI (@FBI) March 30, 2022
“The Chinese government takes advantage of our freedoms — freedoms they deny their own citizens — to advance their authoritarian regime, and calls uncomfortable truths about their behavior rumors and lies,” Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division said.
The court release indicated that Sun sought out another Operation Fox Hunt target in New York City with the help of a member of the police force. He allegedly threatened the victim, saying that the Chinese government was willing to take “adverse” actions if they did not comply with the PRC’s demands.
“There’s nothing false about seeing example after example of the Chinese government’s underhanded and illegal behavior here in the United States. I urge anyone to contact the FBI if you feel you’re a victim of the Chinese government’s illegal Fox Hunt activities,” Kohler added.