Chasing Tigers and Flies while Hunting Foxes

Introduction

Even at the highest ranks of the Chinese elite, discipline and obedience are demanded. Political challengers within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are being removed from their offices and sentenced en masse. To take down tigers, top CCP leaders who are rivals of President Xi, local authorities gather any kind of incriminating evidence from down-line staff. Conformity to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) principles is expected on all levels. In the opaque atmosphere of China’s ‘rule of law’, those in power can ‘eliminate’ anyone suspected of the CCP’s amorphous term, ‘corruption’.[1] Even Jack Ma, billionaire and co-founder of Alibaba, has been silenced and not seen for months.[2]

With the goal to stay out of the snares of the rulers, uncertainty and fear are rampant. Anyone living in China could be under suspicion. Without freedom of speech or freedom of thought, any comments that are deemed subversive to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are scrutinized. If considered improper, the individual’s rights can be stripped by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). Human Rights Watch offers video testimony and notes,

The shuanggui system, which functions beyond the reach of China’s criminal justice system, gives the CCDI the authority to summon any of the Communist Party’s 88 million members to account for allegedly ill-gotten gains at a “designated location at a designated time.” Those summoned are deprived of liberty for days, weeks, or months, during which time they are repeatedly interrogated and often tortured. Typically, shuanggui detention ends when the official confesses to corruption or other alleged disciplinary violations; some are then transferred to the regular criminal justice system for prosecution.[3]

On February 23, 2020, Chinese real estate tycoon, Ren Zhiqiang, vanished. He had been a long time critic of President Xi, once saying that he, “saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes’ but a clown stripped naked who insisted he continued being emperor.”[4] Xu Zhiyong, a prominent activist, was put in a secret detention facility without access to a lawyer in February 2020.[5] He had once stated,

I wish our country could be a free and happy one. Every citizen need not go against their conscience and can find their own place by their virtue and talents; a simple and happy society, where the goodness of humanity is expanded to the maximum, and the evilness of humanity is constrained to the minimum; honesty, trust, kindness, and helping each other are everyday occurrences in life; there is not so much anger and anxiety, a pure smile on everyone’s face.[6]

For Li Qiang, the Lianyungang Party Secretary, when ominous ‘investigators’ swooped in after one of his 2014 speeches, he was never seen in public again.[7] Nearly 75,000 party members have been similarly ‘investigated’ by the CCDI.[8] Tigers and flies are netted by “reining in power in a cage” where ‘rule of law’ is disregarded.[9]

In 2013, President Xi Jinping announced that the CCDI would strike “tigers and flies”.[10] ‘Tigers’ referred to the higher-ranking CCP officials, while the ‘flies’ connoted those on the lower ranks.[11] In his speech, President Xi promised to root out all rivals and “unhealthy tendencies”, adding, “We must have the resolve to fight every corrupt phenomenon, punish every corrupt official and constantly eliminate the soil which breeds corruption, so as to earn people’s trust with actual results.”[12]

The ultimate message instilled in Chinese nationalists is discipline. BBC reported that, by 2017, official data shows 1.34 million “tigers and flies” had been accused and faced consequences at all levels; the military has not been spared.[13] More than sixty generals have been sacked, including two top generals, Fang Fenhui and Zhang Yan, who have ‘disappeared.’[14]

Operation Fox Hunt

Launched in 2014, Beijing’s commitment to expand its ‘anti-corruption’ effort abroad by locating ‘foxes’, the term used to describe Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members who have ‘escaped’ overseas.[15] Chinese authorities announced that they have a ‘zero-tolerance stance’.[16]

Discontent and concern has grown within the ranks of Chinese citizens who fear being harshly disciplined, imprisoned for life,[17] or killed for disagreeing with Xi. Some prominent families in China’s elite have fled.[18] China announced its crackdown as a way to silence critics, improve domestic perceptions of government, and reassure foreign companies that trade in China is safe.[19] In searching for China’s foxes, Beijing News reported that they nabbed and ‘repatriated’ a Chinese national in Thailand and one in Nigeria.[20] Picked off, one-by-one, Fox Hunt stings have happened in Australia,[21] as well as Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and in both North and South America.[22] Xinhua reported that they picked off more than 3,000 foxes in 120 countries so far.[23]

As of July 2020, together, China and Hong Kong had extradition treaties with more than fifty countries, though in July 2020, Canada suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.[24]

Conclusion

The diaspora of Chinese citizens leaving China with significant assets is resulting in an even stronger arm reaching into countries and threatening former citizens. Beijing is blackmailing Chinese nationals to force their return, offering them two choices: return to China or commit suicide.[25] Christopher Wray, U.S. FBI Chief, explained in a July 2020 news conference,

Since 2014, Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping has spearheaded a program known as “Fox Hunt.” Now, China describes Fox Hunt as some kind of international anti- corruption campaign—it is not. Instead, Fox Hunt is a sweeping bid by General Secretary Xi to target Chinese nationals whom he sees as threats and who live outside China, across the world. We’re talking about political rivals, dissidents, and critics seeking to expose China’s extensive human rights violations.

Hundreds of the Fox Hunt victims that they target live right here in the United States, and many are American citizens or green card holders. The Chinese government wants to force them to return to China, and China’s tactics to accomplish that are 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 United States. The message they said to pass on? The target had two options: return to China promptly, or commit suicide. And what happens when Fox Hunt targets refuse to return to China? In the past, their family members both here in the United States and in China have been threatened and coerced, and those back in China have even been arrested for leverage.[26]

What’s at Stake?

First, there is great concern for the many Chinese who live and work in the United States and elsewhere. The lives and livelihoods of Chinese-American citizens, Chinese permanent residents, and Chinese students could be endangered if they are caught in Beijing’s sting. In July 2020, Christopher Wray, U.S. FBI Chief, stated in a broad-ranging speech, “If you believe the Chinese government is targeting you—that you’re a potential Fox Hunt victim—please reach out to your local FBI field office.”[27]

Second, if Beijing can threaten Chinese nationals in countries where there is no extradition treaty like Australia, Canada, and the United States, the threat must be even more intense in other countries.

Third, if Chinese authorities, with their long arm, can round up or threaten the masses who have a pro-democracy stance regarding Hong Kong, they may be able to locate people of any nationality across the world who stand with Hong Kong, Taiwan, and/or Tibet and harass them into submission wherever they live, or ‘re-educate’ them in one of their concentration camps in Xinjiang Province, discussed later in this book.


[1] Nathaniel Taplin, “China’s Corruption Paradox,” The Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-corruption-paradox-11572600605

[2] Helen Davidson, “Where is Jack Ma? Chinese Tycoon Not Seen Since October,” The Guardian, January 5, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jan/05/where-is-jack-ma-chinese-tycoon-not-seen-since-october-alibaba

[3] Human Rights Watch, “’Special Measures’ – Detention and Torture in the Chinese Communist Party’s Shuanggui System,” Human Rights Watch, n.d., https://www.hrw.org/zh-hans/node/297068

[4] Irwin Cotler and Judith Abitan, “The Chinese Communist Party’s Culture of Corruption and Repression Has Cost Lives Around the World,” The Globe and Mail, Opinion, April 14, 2020, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-chinese-communist-partys-culture-of-corruption-and-repression-has/

[5] Verna Yu, “China Activist Who Called Xi Clueless on Coronavirus Faces Years in Jail for ‘Subversion’,” The Guardian, March 7, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/08/china-activist-who-called-xi-clueless-on-coronavirus-faces-years-in-jail-for-subversion

[6] Liu Yong, “Xu Zhiyong: Featured in Mr. Fashion,” China Digital Times, August 4, 2009, https://chinadigitaltimes.net/2009/08/brother-chinese-activist-held-for-tax-evasion/

[7] Wang Feng, Yifei Chen, & Patrick Boehler, “Tigers and Flies, How Two Years of Graft Probes Have Shaken China’s Political Elite,” South China Morning Post, November 6, 2014, https://multimedia.scmp.com/china-corruption/

[8] Ibid.

[9] Human Rights Watch, “’Special Measures’ – Detention and Torture in the Chinese Communist Party’s Shuanggui System,” Human Rights Watch, n.d., https://www.hrw.org/zh-hans/node/297068

[10] Tania Branigan, “Xi Jinping Vows to Fight ‘Tigers’ And ‘Flies’ in Anti-Corruption Drive,” The Guardian, January 22, 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jan/22/xi-jinping-tigers-flies-corruption

[11] Minnie Chan, “75,000 Party Cadres Probed for Graft, But More ‘Big Tigers’ Unlikely, Says Analyst,” South China Morning Post, October 5, 2014, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1609789/75000-party-cadres- probed-graft-more-big-tigers-unlikely-says-analyst

[12] Sophie Beach, “Xi Jinping Fights Corruption Among ‘Tigers’ and ‘Flies’,” China Digital Times, January 22, 2013, https://chinadigitaltimes.net/2013/01/xi-jinping-takes-anti-corruption-fight-to-tigers-and-flies/

[13] BBC News, “Charting China’s ‘Great Purge’ Under Xi,” BBC News, October 23, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-41670162

[14] Ibid.

[15] Goh Sui Noi, “China to Keep Up Hunt for Tigers, Foxes,” The Straits Times, March 23, 2017, https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-to-keep-up-hunt-for-tigers-foxes

[16] Ben Blanchard, “Corruption Cases in China Jumped One-Third in 2016,” Reuters, March 11, 2017, https://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFKBN16J01S

[17] Saikiran Kannan, “Operation Fox Hunt: China’s Global Witch-Hunt Against Dissenters,” India Today, July 13, 2020, https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/operation-fox-hunt-china-s-global-witch-hunt-against-dissenters-1699869-2020-07-13

[18] Ibid.

[19] FTI Consulting, “Chasing Foxes: What the Chinese Anti-Corruption Hunt Means for Australian Business,” FTI Consulting, n.d., https://www.fticonsulting-asia.com/~/media/Files/apac-files/insights/articles/chasing-foxes-grip-article.pdf

[20] South China Morning Post, “How the Elite ‘Fox Hunt’ Police Taskforce Scours the World for Fugitives Who Have Fled Overseas,” South China Morning Post, n.d., https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1620587/how-elite-fox-hunt-police-taskforce-scours-world-fugitives-who-have-fled

[21] Angus Grigg & Lisa Murray, “Untold Story: China’s Operation Fox Hunt and the Capture of Zhang Jianping,” Financial Review, June 18, 2016, https://www.afr.com/world/untold-story-chinas-operation-fox-hunt-and-the-capture-of-zhang-jianping-20160616-gpk1i9

[22] Thomas Joscelyn, “How China Tries to Intimidate Its Dissidents Living Overseas,” Foundation for Defense of Democracies, July 8, 2020, https://www.fdd.org/analysis/2020/07/08/how-china-intimidates-dissidents-overseas/

[23] Xinhua, “3,317 Fugitives Abroad Captured in China’s ‘Fox Hunt’,” Xinhua Net, November 2, 2017, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-11/02/c_136723754.htm

[24] Matthew Strong, “Concern Mounts Over 52 Countries Having Extradition Treaties with China or Hong Kong,” Taiwan News, July 4, 2020, https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3960108

[25] Julian Borger, “China Blackmailing Dissenters in US to Return Home – FBI Chief,” The Guardian, July 7, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/07/china-christopher-wray-operation-fox-hunt

[26] Christopher Wray, “The Threat Posed by the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party to the Economic and National Security of the United States,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, July 7, 2020, https://www.fbi.gov/news/speeches/the-threat-posed-by-the-chinese-government-and-the-chinese-communist-party-to-the-economic-and-national-security-of-the-united-states

[27] Ibid.

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