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U.S. warns China to stop pressuring immigrants to return home

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Civilians march through Tiananmen Square Thursday morning, October 1, 2009, to celebrate the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Thousands marched through central Beijing with flags during a parade.

UNITED STATES — U.S. diplomats have warned China to stop using covert law enforcement agents on U.S. soil to pressure Chinese citizens into returning home to face justice, often on corruption charges, United States officials confirmed to CNN.

Placing a law enforcement official here without notifying American authorities is criminal, the officials said.

They acknowledged the United States and China have a legal cooperation treaty but stressed that it requires China to share evidence and work through the U.S. legal system.

China responded Monday through its state news agency, Xinhua, saying China was simply fighting corruption with a program called Fox Hunt 2015.

“China’s operation is legitimate and has been approved in bilateral agreements reached earlier this year,” China said. ” ‘Fox Hunt 2015,’ which targets corrupt officials of government departments and state-owned enterprises, is an important effort of China to crack down [on] corruption.”

Xinhua said U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson promised to actively support China’s “Sky Net” and “Fox Hunt” operations, which aim to bring back corrupt officials.

China apparently issued its statement in response to stories in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal about the U.S. warning.

State Department spokesman John Kirby addressed the issue in general terms Monday at a press briefing, saying it’s a criminal offense for “an individual other than a diplomatic or consular officer or attache to act in the United States as a law enforcement agent of a foreign power” without notifying the U.S. attorney general.

Kirby said the two nations cooperate on fugitives and anti-corruption efforts through the U.S.-China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation.

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