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Three men were convicted on Tuesday in a New York City court of stalking and harassing a New Jersey family as part of a campaign by Chinese officials, The New York Times reports.
Michael McMahon, 55, Zhu Yong, 66, and Zheng Congying, 27, were each convicted of stalking and a conspiracy charge, with McMahon and Zhu also being convicted of acting as unregistered agents. Zhu and Zheng are both Chinese citizens living in the United States, while McMahon is a former sergeant in the New York Police Department who retired and became a private investigator.
The men were accused of being involved in Operation Fox Hunt, an initiative by the government of China to repatriate fugitives that began decades ago, that the Department of Justice says is part of an international effort to control Chinese nationals on the part of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Breon S. Peace, the U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn, said in a statement following the verdict that McMahon and Zhu were acting “at the direction of a hostile foreign state.”
He added, “We will remain steadfast in exposing and undermining efforts by the Chinese government to reach across our border and perpetrate transnational repression schemes targeting victims in the United States in violation of our laws.”
A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement last Friday accused the Justice Department of “slanders and smears” in regards to the case.
McMahon protested his innocence and stated his intention to appeal in a statement outside the courthouse on Tuesday.
“If I had known that they were part of a foreign government looking to harass anybody, I would have said no, and I would have called the FBI,” he said.
An attorney for Zheng told the Times that she considered the verdict to be positive since her client was acquitted on two of the most serious charges: conspiring to act as an illegal foreign agent and acting as an illegal foreign agent.
“There were no connections between the people that Mr. Zheng knew and the people that Mr. McMahon and Mr. Zhu knew. The connection was simply lacking,” said Zheng’s attorney, Renee Wong.
An attorney for Zhu did not respond to a request for comment from the Times.
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