Operation Fox Hunt

(Photo by Erik Mclean on

ProPublica’s Sebastian Rotella and Kirsten Berg have an outstanding piece on the Chinese government’s efforts to compel individuals to return to China to face often trumped up charges. Efforts include secretly sending Chinese officials into the United States to surveil, harass, intimidate, and stalk residents of the United States, and also imprisoning or otherwise threatening residents’ family member who have remained in China.

Many of the details in the article are the result of court records, interviews, and assessments of Chinese media. It remains to be seen whether Chinese agents’ abilities to conduct ‘fox hunts’ will be impeded now that the US government is more aware of these operations. Given the attention and suspicion now cast towards citizens of China, however, there is also a risk that FBI agents may become overzealous in their investigations to the detriment of law-abiding Chinese-Americans or visitors from China.

In an ideal world there would be equivalent analyses or publications on the extent to which these operations are also undertaken in Canada. To date, however, there is no equivalent to ProPublica’s piece in the Canadian media landscape and given the Canadian media’s contraction we can’t realistically expect anything, anytime soon. However, even a short piece which assessed whether individuals from China who’ve run operations in the United States, and who are now barred from entering the US or would face charges upon crossing the US border, are similarly barred or under an extradition order in Canada would be a positive addition to what we know of how the Canadian government is responding to these kinds of Chinese operations.

The Nature of UK Rendition Processes

The Guardian has an excellent bit of coverage on UK-led rendition practices. These practices entailed collaborating with Libya and China to turn over members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an anti-Gaddafi organization. Ian Cobain, the journalist, precisely notes the kinds of experiences that UK and American agents subjected members of the organization to during their capture and transit to Libya.

It’s a harrowing read, but important, as it details the significance and associated dangers of the state’s secret extension of powers. It also recognizes that states will ‘turn’ on individuals and groups that they had once supported on the basis of building economic relations with a new ‘friend’. Perhaps most ominously, the article outlines how the secret court processes – where neither the accused nor their counsel are permitted to view or argue about evidence against the accused – have had their rulings ignored. Even the judges in these secret cases cannot impose their power on the state, indicating that arms of the government are entirely divorced from the accountability required for democratic institutions to (normatively) survive.

The only way to stop these kinds of practices is for the public to stop quietly ignoring the erosion of their democracies, civil liberties, and basic freedoms. It remains unclear how this can be done, but given the expansion of the state’s perception of its executive powers, it is imperative that citizens vigorously and actively begin protecting their democracies before the last shreds of democracy are truly lost.