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FBI chief says China trying to force overseas critics to return by threatening their families

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WASHINGTON: The head of America's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said on Tuesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping was spearheading a programme to strong-arm Chinese-born people in the US deemed as threats to return home - even threatening their families.

FBI director Christopher Wray, speaking at the Hudson Institute think tank, said hundreds of Chinese in America - some of them US citizens - had been targets of the Fox Hunt programme.

Mr Wray reiterated US charges that China was using espionage, cyber theft, blackmail and other means as part of a strategy to replace the US as the world's dominant economic and technological power. China rejected Mr Wray's comments.

Mr Wray said the Fox Hunt programme was aimed at silencing criticism of Beijing's political and human rights policies by Chinese-born people living overseas.

The families of those who refuse to return are threatened and some have been arrested in China "for leverage", he said.

"Hundreds of these Fox Hunt victims that they target live here in the United States, and many are American citizens or green card holders," he continued.

"The Chinese government wants to force them to return to China and China's tactics to accomplish this are shocking."

He urged people to contact the FBI if Chinese officials tried to force them to return to China.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian rejected Mr Wray's comments.

"The relevant statements by Wray ignore basic facts, are full of political lies, and fully reveal his deep-rooted Cold War thinking and ideological prejudices," he said. - REUTERS

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