Chinese intelligence officers accused of trying to obstruct US investigation into tech giant Huawei

Two men suspected of being Chinese intelligence agents have been charged with trying to obstruct a US criminal investigation and prosecution of Chinese tech giant Huawei, according to court documents released Monday.

The two men, Guochun He and Zheng Wang, are accused of attempting to order a US government person they believed to be a cooperator to provide confidential information about the US Department of Justice investigation, including witnesses, trial evidence and any news of the charges. One of the defendants paid around US$61,000 for the information, the Justice Department said.

The department has issued arrest warrants for the couple, but it is unclear if they will ever be arrested.

The cases were announced at a press conference attended by the heads of the FBI and Justice Department, a rare joint presence reflecting a concerted US show of force against Chinese intelligence efforts. Washington has long accused Beijing of meddling in US political affairs and stealing secrets and intellectual property.

The complaint against two of the Chinese officers alleges that they attempted to obtain confidential information regarding witnesses, trial evidence and any potential new charges that Huawei may face. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland also announced charges against four other Chinese nationals, accusing them of using the cover of an academic institute to try to procure sensitive technology and equipment, as well as interfering with protests that “would have been embarrassing to the Chinese government”.

And two other people have been arrested and five others charged with harassing a person living in the United States to return to China under what Beijing calls “Operation Fox Hunt”.

Double agent

“Today’s cases clearly show that Chinese agents will not hesitate to break the law and violate international standards in the process,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said “China’s economic aggression and human rights abuses are part of the same problem.”

“They try to silence anyone who defends themselves against their theft – businesses, politicians, individuals – just as they try to silence anyone who defends themselves against their other assaults,” he said.

Wang and He are accused of reaching out to someone who started working as a double agent for the US government, and that person’s contact with the defendants was supervised by the FBI. At some point last year, prosecutors say, the unnamed person provided defendants with a one-page document that appeared to be classified and contained information about an alleged plan to indict and arrest Huawei executives. in the USA.

But the document was actually prepared by the government for the purposes of the prosecution which was unsealed on Monday, and the information it contains was not accurate.

“Political persecution”

The company is not named in the charging documents, although the references make it clear that it is Huawei, which was charged in 2019 with bank fraud and again the following year with new counts. charge of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets.

Spokespersons for Huawei and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Huawei has previously called the federal investigation a “political persecution, plain and simple.”

“Attacking Huawei will not help the United States stay ahead of the competition,” the company said in a 2020 statement.

In the “Operation Fox Hunt” case, prosecutors said Chinese agents tried to intimidate an unnamed person and his family into returning to China. Part of the plot, according to the United States, involved the person’s nephew traveling to the United States as part of a tour group to make threats such as “Coming back and surrendering is the only way out “.