The Justice Department announced on Monday that it has indicted two Chinese intelligence officials who are believed to have unsuccessfully tried to obtain inside information about a federal investigation into a telecommunications company accused of stealing trade secrets, which officials later identified as Huawei Technologies.
The Chinese intelligence officials, Guochun He and Zheng Wang, paid bribes to an official with access to sensitive details of the investigation into Huawei by the US attorney in the Eastern District of New York.
The person turned out to be an agent working for the FBI who handed over phoney documents.
The indictment was part of three unrelated legal actions against Chinese operatives in the United States that senior law enforcement officials announced on Monday, a day after President Xi Jinping of China solidified his grip on power as the Communist Party congress in Beijing closed.
Attorney-General Merrick Garland and Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), issued blunt denunciations of China during a news conference, accusing the country’s leaders of meddling in the American judicial system, stealing technology and bullying Chinese citizens who emigrate to the United States.
“The government of China sought to interfere with the rights and freedoms of individuals in the United States and to undermine our judicial system that protects those rights,” Garland said.
“We will continue to fiercely protect the rights guaranteed to everyone in our country.”
Wray said the cases, which total 13 indictments and two arrests, “highlight the threat” that China’s intelligence services pose to “rights of people in the United States”.
The bureau has identified 10 of the 13 people charged as intelligence agents, and will continue to focus on rooting out other Chinese agents, he said.
The cases could cast a shadow over an effort by the Biden administration and TikTok to resolve national security concerns posed by the Chinese-owned video app.
A draft agreement between the two parties has faced some skepticism among some administration officials, including Deputy Attorney-General Lisa Monaco, who said the new allegations involving Huawei should serve as a warning to US officials.
“This case exposes the interconnection between intelligence officers and Chinese companies, and it demonstrates once again why such companies especially in the telecommunications industry shouldn’t be trusted to securely handle our sensitive personal data and communications,” Monaco said on Monday.