Two Chinese men have been arrested for illegally opening and operating a police station in New York City as part of a provincial branch of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
On Monday, “Harry” Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan, were arrested and charged with conspiring to act as agents of the PRC government and obstructing justice by destroying evidence of their communications with an MPS official.
According to Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security, the men are accused of establishing a secret police station in lower Manhattan in 2022 on behalf of the Chinese government in order to locate and intimidate pro-democracy activists and dissidents in the U.S. critical of Beijing’s policies.
The PRC, through its repressive security apparatus, established a secret physical presence in New York City to monitor and intimidate dissidents and those critical of its government. The PRC’s actions go far beyond the bounds of acceptable nation-state conduct. We will resolutely defend the freedoms of all those living in our country from the threat of authoritarian repression.
The Spain-based nonprofit Safeguard Defenders previously uncovered that the informal police stations were supposedly being set up globally by the PRC to provide assistance to Chinese nationals in handling paperwork, including renewing their driver’s licenses and official documents.
However, the investigation found that the men did not register with the Justice Department as agents of a foreign government, nor did it perform the basic services of helping Chinese citizens, according to U.S. law enforcement officials.
“It is simply outrageous that China’s Ministry of Public Security thinks it can get away with establishing a secret, illegal police station on U.S. soil to aid its efforts to export repression and subvert our rule of law,” said Acting Assistant Director Kurt Ronnow of the FBI Counterintelligence Division.
This case serves as a powerful reminder that the People’s Republic of China will stop at nothing to bend people to their will and silence messages they don’t want anyone to hear. The FBI is dedicated to protecting everyone in the United States against efforts to undermine our democratic freedoms, and we’ll hold any state actors – and those who help them – accountable for breaking our laws.
According to the nonprofit, 36 stations have been built in 16 European countries, including France, Spain, Britain and Germany, while the rest can be found in the Americas, Asia and Africa.
Wang said that China has a policy of non-interference in other countries, claiming that the alleged police stations do not exist.
“China firmly opposes the U.S. side’s slandering, smearing, engaging in political manipulation, and maliciously concocting the so-called transnational repression narrative,” AFP quoted Wang as saying.
Separately, the Justice Department also charged 34 officers in the MPS for allegedly creating thousands of fake social media accounts to harass dissidents abroad.
According to prosecutors, the defendants are part of a specialized task force in Beijing known as the “912 Special Project Working Group,” which uses social media to spread Chinese government propaganda. They would also allegedly disrupt dissidents on U.S. technology platforms during meetings where topics critical of the Chinese government were discussed.
Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a release:
As alleged, the PRC government deploys its national police and the 912 Special Project Working Group not as an instrument to uphold the law and protect public safety, but rather as a troll farm that attacks persons in our country for exercising free speech in a manner that the PRC government finds disagreeable, and also spreads propaganda whose sole purpose is to sow divisions within the United States.
In addition, prosecutors also announced that eight Chinese government officials, all believed to be living in China, were charged with directing an employee of a U.S. telecommunications company to remove Chinese dissidents from its platform.