Some U.S. intelligence officials fear that the Chinese government is conducting sophisticated "kidnapping" programs in the United States in order to spirit their nationals back to the mainland, where they face arrest and imprisonment on political and corruption charges. Beijing has openly admitted to repatriating more than 3,000 people "who had escaped overseas" since late 2012, Xinhua reports, although the U.S. intelligence community believes China's strategies in Western nations often involves pushing the definitions of coercion and kidnapping.
In one example cited in the report by Foreign Policy, a Chinese-Canadian billionaire was snatched from his hotel in Hong Kong in 2017 and was loaded — likely sedated — into a wheelchair and rolled out through the lobby with a sheet covering his head. Similar stories have also come out of Australia, a U.S. intelligence partner, including one about a man who was allegedly drugged by Chinese security forces and transported back to the mainland on a state-owned shipping vessel.
Chinese nationals living in the United States have also begun to disappear under suspicious circumstances, although unlike previous targets, "they were not high-profile folks," said one former U.S. intelligence official.
"There were multiple reports of people observing Chinese intelligence operatives materializing around the schools or residences of the missing people," the intelligence official went on. "One theory was that they were strong-arming them in person, saying, 'We're here. Your flight back to China is tomorrow.'" The official stressed that there is still a difference between "kicking in a door and taking a guy forcefully away and saying, 'Come with us or we'll kill your family in Inner Mongolia.'" Still, in one case involving a Chinese graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, there was "evidence of this person being taken against their will."
The fear is that just because China has not brazenly kidnapped anyone in the United States yet, it "doesn't mean they won't eventually." Read the chilling investigation at Foreign Policy.