The Obama administration has warned Beijing that its law enforcement personnel do not have permission to operate in the United States without notifying the proper authorities, according to a spokesperson.
Officials did not cite a particular case but U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner released a statement Sunday saying there are specific rules that foreign law enforcement agents must follow in order to work within the U.S.
“While we do not comment on specific cases, generally speaking, foreign law enforcement agents are not permitted to operate within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General,” said Toner in the statement. “In regards to China, the United States and China regularly engage on law enforcement matters of mutual concern, including fugitives and anti-corruption, through the U.S.-China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation (JLG).
“We continue to emphasize to People’s Republic of China officials that it is incumbent on them to provide U.S. officials with significant, clear, and convincing evidence to allow our law enforcement agencies to proceed with investigations, removals, and prosecutions of fugitives,” said Toner.
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.
Those being sought by China are believed to be prominent expatriates, some wanted for economic corruption or for what China considers political crimes, the New York Times reported.
The Beijing government has dubbed the initiative Operation Fox Hunt, and claims it is part of renewed efforts to stamp out corruption in the communist country. According to the Times, the Ministry of Public Security says that more than 930 corruption suspects had been returned to China from all over the world since the beginning of 2014. It is not clear how many returned from the United States, nor is it clear how many Chinese expatriates in the U.S. are currently being sought by Beijing.
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.