Chinese illegal espionage operations inside the United States were worse than originally thought. Recently the U.S. arrested and charged one American private investigator (Michael McMahon) and seven Chinese citizens. Th charge was operating a secret repatriation effort to coerce fugitives from China to return to China. The victims were usually political opponents who were falsely charged with corruption and faced long prison terms in China. In the past the Chinese have sought to extradite such people. These efforts usually failed when it was discovered that they were political opponents of the government facing false charges to halt their protest activities and discourage others from doing the same. Since the Americans won’t extradite political opponents of the Chinese government, the Chinese resorted to trying long distance demands, via email or phone, threatening to jail family members in China if the wanted men, along with wives and children, did not return. It was noted that China was already using illegal repatriation teams in other countries.
The known repatriation operations in the United States began during 2017 and included hiring an American private investigator (McMahon) to locater the dissident family and then bringing the father of the wanted man’s wife to the United States, against his will, to implore his daughter to pressure her husband to return. Friends of the daughter back in China were also threatened and forced to send the daughters emails urging her to return. Packages were also sent to the home of the wanted man containing videos and letters from friends back in China urging the family to return. This campaign lasted until 2019 at which point the repatriation team gave up and turned their attention to other targets. Meanwhile the FBI had been alerted about this and tracked down the eight men responsible and arrested five of them. Three others had returned to China but were also indicted, making any future foreign operations by them more difficult.
Operations like this are quite common among totalitarian government, particularly communist ones. These operations often involve assassination as well, but few of those have been attempted in the United States. Such murders continue to occur in Europe and Asia. Britain has been the scene of several, which has caused Russia quite a lot of diplomatic trouble, including the expulsion of diplomats and restrictions on the activities of others. Iran has run covert repatriation and assassination operations in Europe for years, with some of the operatives being caught and prosecuted. North Korea also participates in this sort of thing, especially in South Korea and China. The North Koreans are able to get permission from the Chinese to send covert agents into China to bring back North Koreans who fled the country. As long as the North Korean agents keep the Chinese informed of their activities and refrain from any actions that would harm Chinese, they are allowed to continue. These North Korea operations were reduced in 2020 because of the covid19 quarantine which saw North Korea seal its Chinese border. People still escaped but into China and the retrieval teams in China are still active, detaining those they catch inside China until the quarantine is lifted.