BEIJING (AP) — China called the U.S. arrogant and selfish on Friday after two Chinese citizens were charged with stealing trade secrets and other sensitive information from American government agencies and corporations.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the U.S. of undermining other countries’ development in order to defend its own hegemony.

“The U.S. is a world superpower, and it’s quite arrogant and selfish,” she said during a regular press briefing.

Alluding to other accusations the U.S. has made against China, she said: “They believe that a lie repeated a thousand times will become the truth, but I want to tell them that a lie is still a lie even after it has been repeated ten thousand times.”

Hua, in a written statement issued earlier Friday, said the U.S. was “fabricating facts.”

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday announced the indictment of Chinese nationals Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong for allegedly carrying out an extensive cyberespionage campaign on behalf of Beijing’s main intelligence agency.

Besides the alleged U.S. infiltration, Zhu and Hua are also accused of breaching computers linked to companies in at least 11 other countries, including Japan, the United Kingdom and India.

Among the cyberespionage maneuvers detailed in the indictment is the alleged use of a phishing technique which sent emails that appeared to be coming from legitimate email addresses but were in fact from members of “Advanced Persistent Threat 10,” the China-based hacking group to which Zhu and Zhang purportedly belong.

The indictment says the pair worked for the Huaying Haitai Science and Technology Development Company in the northeastern port city of Tianjin and acted in association with the city’s Chinese Ministry of State Security bureau.

A public company registry states that Huaying Haitai’s work involved the development of computer software, consulting and business related to a variety of technical equipment.

Zhu and Zhang’s current whereabouts are unclear. China does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.

“There is some cooperation under the framework of Interpol, but if the Chinese government doesn’t agree with the U.S. charges, there is no way to extradite the accused,” said Li Fangping, a Beijing-based criminal lawyer.

Li added that if Zhu and Zhang travel to other countries that have signed treaties with the U.S., they could be detained and later extradited, as was the case with Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in Canada.

James Gong, a cybersecurity senior associate at the Herbert Smith Freehills law firm in Beijing, said the announcement of the charges has already had an impact.

“The allegation itself will give rise to some suspicion, at least, among the international public, that these hacking activities are actually supported by the Chinese state,” he said.


Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this story.