China detained Fed employee in hotel room and threatened his family in bid to get secret US economic data: Senate report

China detained Fed employee in hotel room and threatened his family in bid to get secret US economic data: Senate report
In this May 22, 2020, file photo, a car drives past the Federal Reserve building in Washington.Patrick Semansky/AP Photo
  • China has targeted Federal Reserve employees for more than a decade, a Senate investigation said.
  • It repeatedly detained one man and threatened his family if he didn't give up data, the report said.

China repeatedly detained a US Federal Reserve employee, including in a hotel room, and threatened his family in an effort to force him to hand over sensitive US economic data, according to a new Senate investigation.

Officials in China "forcibly detained" the economist four separate times when he visited Shanghai in 2019, the investigation found.

The officials also "allegedly tapped the employee's phones and computers, and copied the contact information of other Federal Reserve officials from the individual's WeChat account," the report said.

Officials first detained him in his hotel room, where they said they had been monitoring his phone conversations, and "accused him of committing crimes against China," per the report.

They approached him three more times, and told him that he had to cooperate with the Chinese government and share confidential data, it said.


The report was published Tuesday by the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

It did not say whether the man gave any data to the Chinese officials. It said that Fed officials passed the case to the State Department and FBI, and that the FBI interviewed the man but would not comment further.

Insider contacted the State Department and FBI for comment.

The report characterized the hotel incident as part of a broader attempt by China to steal information and to "target, influence, and undermine the US Federal Reserve" since at least 2013.

The investigation accused the Fed of not properly responding to these efforts, and recommended steps for the Federal Reserve and Congress to tighten security.


GOP Sen. Rob Portman, the ranking member of the committee, said in a statement: "As our investigation reveals, the Chinese government is using every tool at its disposal to infiltrate and steal valuable information."

"We cannot let the American taxpayer continue to unwittingly fund China's military and economic rise which is why our report makes strong recommendations to enhance and protect our Federal Reserve."

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell cast doubt on the investigation's overall findings in a letter to Portman, Politico reported.

Powell argued that the Fed had strong policies against interference and said its officials "respectfully reject any suggestions to the contrary."