WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has sent a warning to Beijing about Chinese agents it says are operating covertly in the United States to pressure fugitives, including some suspected of corruption, to return to China, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
Citing U.S. officials, the newspaper said the operation, named Operation Fox Hunt, was part of a worldwide effort by Beijing to repatriate fugitives and recover funds suspected of being tied to criminal activity.
The Times said the State Department warned China in recent weeks to stop the agents’ activities. According to U.S. officials cited by the newspaper, the agents, working undercover for China’s Ministry of Public Security, were likely entering the United States on trade or tourist visas and using “various strong-arm tactics” to pressure expatriates to go back home.
Such tactics included threats against relatives in China, and had intensified in recent months, the officials told the Times.
The newspaper cited Ministry of Public Security figures that more than 930 suspects worldwide had been repatriated under the program since last year.
Those being sought by China are believed to be prominent expatriates, some wanted for economic corruption or for what China considers political crimes, the Times reported.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to make his first state visit to the United States next month as the countries seek to resolve tensions over such issues as trade, human rights and hacking.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reporting by Peter Cooney; Editing by Sandra Maler