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What is Operation Fox Hunt and why are experts concerned about China’s nominee winning Interpol seat

Operation Fox Hunt was launched by the Chinese President Xi Jinping in June 2014. The Chinese government had claimed that the operation was launched to ostensibly get back fugitives accused of financial crimes, but that is not quite how it turned out.

Senior Chinese government official Hu Binchen has been elected to the Interpol Executive Committee during the elections that were held in Turkey during the ongoing 89th General Assembly of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). It may be noted here that Hu Binchen is a Deputy Director General at China’s Ministry of Public Security, that leads Operation Fox Hunt in China.

“Mr Binchen HU of China and Mr Praveen SINHA of India have been elected to the posts of Delegate for Asia (3-yr term),” Interpol said in a tweet.

The election of Hu Binchen, a Deputy Director General at China’s Ministry of Public Security, to the Interpol Executive Committee has sparked profound concerns among experts. In a statement, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) stated that the Chinese government has routinely utilised the Interpol Red Notice to persecute dissidents in exile. IPAC added that the appointment of Hu Binchen would further embolden the Chinese government to use Interpol as a tool for its authoritarian policies globally.

“Hu’s election gives the PRC government a green light to continue using Interpol as a vehicle for its repressive policies globally and places thousands of Hong Konger, Uyghur, Tibetan, Taiwanese and Chinese dissidents living abroad at even graver risk,” IPAC said.

“The PRC cannot be allowed to continue its long arm policing abroad. In light of these abuses, we reiterate our call for all governments to revoke extradition treaties with the PRC and Hong Kong. Activists, dissidents and exiles living abroad must be protected from harassment and intimidation from the PRC authorities,” the statement added.

Earlier, as many as 40 human right activists had also shot off a letter to the Interpol Member States warning that Hu Binchen’s election would have severe ramifications on the safety and wellbeing of Chinese, Hong Kongers, Taiwanese and Chinese human rights activists living outside China as well as Tibetan and Uyghur diasporas.

Besides, 50 legislators from 20 countries, who are part of the IPAC had written a joint letter to their governments raising alarm at China’s moves to gain influence over the Interpol. Referring to the recent attempts by the Chinese government to use the Interpol Red Notice system to target Uyghur activists living in exile, the letter argued that Hu Binchen’s election would give Beijing a ‘green light’ to continue using Interpol as “a vehicle for the PRC government’s repressive policies.”

These legislators had also batted against Hu’s appointment due to allegations that he is directly involved in Operation Fox Hunt, through which Beijing hunts down dissidents in foreign countries and forces them back to China. 

Meanwhile, the Chinese government-backed news outlet The Global Times applauded Hu’s appointment while insisting that Operation: Fox Hunt is a legitimate “anti-corruption campaign” to track down Chinese citizens suspected of economic crimes who fled overseas. 

China government’s Operation Fox Hunt

Operation Fox Hunt was launched by the Chinese President Xi Jinping in June 2014. The Chinese government had claimed that the operation was launched to ostensibly get back fugitives accused of financial crimes.

The FBI in the United States had, however, said that China’s real motive behind the campaign was a growing crackdown on dissent within the Chinese diaspora.

“China describes Fox Hunt as some kind of international anti-corruption campaign. It is not,” FBI Director Christopher Wray warned. “Instead,” he told the Hudson Institute in Washington DC last year, “Fox Hunt is a sweeping bid by [President] Xi to target Chinese nationals who he sees as threats and who live outside of China across the world.”

According to the FBI director, political opponents, dissidents, and critics aiming to expose China’s widespread human rights crimes are on the Chinese Fox Hunt target list.

Return to China promptly or commit suicide

“Hundreds of these Fox Hunt victims that they target live right here in the United States, and many are American citizens or green cardholders. The Chinese government wants to force them to return to China and China’s tactics to accomplish that is shocking.

For example, when it couldn’t locate one Fox Hunt target, the Chinese government sent an emissary to visit the target’s family here in the US. The message they said to pass on: the target had two options, returned to China promptly or commit suicide,” Wray said.

Asserting that the Fox Hunt operations were also underway in other nations, Wray added that the FBI has been coordinating with its partners to thwart Chinese intimidation tactics.

Speaking about the coercive tactics adopted by China, the FBI director said that, “Chinese people in the United States are frequently forced by thinly veiled threats against their family in China.”

Wray said that when Operation Fox Hunt targets refuse to return to China, family members in their home country “have even been arrested for leverage.”

“These are not the actions we would expect from a responsible nation-state. Instead, they’re more like something we would expect from an organized crime syndicate,” Wray said.

It may be noted that last year the United States had charged eight people, including six Chinese citizens, over a three-year plot to intimidate a US resident into returning to China to face criminal charges. The case was believed to be part of China’s ruling Communist Party’s Operation Fox Hunt.

The Justice Department had charged them with concealing from US immigration authorities their active duty statuses with the People’s Liberation Army.

In retaliation to the arrest, China had warned America that it would arrest Americans in China.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
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