Chinese National Charged With Acting As An Unregistered Agent Of The Chinese Government In The United States

8 mins read
FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Matthew G. Olsen, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of a Complaint charging SUN HOI YING, a/k/a “Sun Haiying” (“SUN”), a citizen of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”), with acting and conspiring to act in the United States as an unregistered agent of the PRC Government. SUN is at large in China.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “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. 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 U.S. law enforcement to reinforce that the victim had no choice but to comply with the PRC Government’s demands. Today’s charges reflect this Office’s continued commitment, working hand in hand with our partners at the FBI, to combat transnational repression and bring to justice those who perpetrate it.”

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said: “This case demonstrates, once again, the PRC’s disdain for the rule of law and its efforts to coerce and intimidate those it targets on our shores as part of its Operation Fox Hunt. The defendant allegedly traveled to the United States and enlisted others, including a sworn law enforcement officer, to spy on and blackmail his victims. Such conduct is both criminal and reprehensible.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said: “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.  Our commitment to protecting the freedoms enjoyed by all United States residents is steadfast.  Today’s action is the latest example of our unwavering determination to combat transnational repression in all its forms.”

According to the allegations contained in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:

The FBI has been involved in an investigation of individuals who, working at the direction of the PRC Government, have engaged in an international campaign, known alternatively as “Operation Fox Hunt” and “Operation Skynet,” to pressure individuals located in the United States and elsewhere outside the PRC to return to the PRC to face charges brought by the PRC Government or to otherwise reach financial settlements with the PRC Government.

From at least approximately February 2017 to February 2022, SUN acted in the United States as an agent of the PRC Government, without notifying the U.S. Attorney General as required by law. In particular, SUN conducted operations in the United States on behalf of the PRC Government to pressure, threaten, and collect personal information regarding victims of Operation Fox Hunt. Among other things, as part of his operations at the direction of the PRC Government, SUN hired private investigators in the United States to gather personal information on Operation Fox Hunt targets, labeled as “fugitives” by the PRC Government, and provided some of that information to the PRC Government.

For example, at the direction of the PRC Government, SUN used private investigators to conduct surveillance and collect personal information of a U.S. citizen (“Victim-1”) located in New York City who was a target of Operation Fox Hunt.  Personal identifying information of Victim-1 collected by SUN, including Victim-1’s home address and photograph, was later published by the PRC Government in a list of Operation Fox Hunt targets.  During the time SUN was collecting information about Victim-1 for the PRC Government, Victim-1’s daughter (“Victim-2”), a U.S. citizen who was pregnant at the time, was held against her will in the PRC for approximately eight months.  PRC Government representatives told Victim-2 not to request help from the U.S. Government and that she would not be permitted to leave the PRC until Victim-2 helped cause Victim-1 to return to the PRC.

SUN also sought out, located, and met with another Operation Fox Hunt target (“Victim-3”) in New York City, in coordination with a co-conspirator who is a local U.S. law enforcement officer. During those meetings, SUN threatened and pressured Victim-3, including by threatening that the PRC Government would take certain adverse and retaliatory actions if Victim-3 did not comply with the demands of the PRC Government.


*                      *                     *

SUN, 53, of China, is charged with one count of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and its New York Field Office, Counterintelligence Division, and thanked the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, for their assistance.

The case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew J.C. Hellman and Kyle A. Wirshba are in charge of the case, with assistance from Trial Attorney Scott Claffee of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

The charges in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.