Two men have been arrested by the FBI on suspicion of running a secret police station for China in New York and using it to spy on Chinese activists living in the US.
Beijing’s Ministry of public security (MPS) is said to have set up the station in Manhattan’s Chinatown in February 2022 as part of a campaign to crack down on Chinese pro-democracy activists and other political opponents around the world.
Reports of hidden Chinese police stations in the US have made the head of the FBI “very concerned,” he said.
On Monday, the justice department also announced charges against 40 MPS officers and four other people for allegedly running an internet troll operation against dissidents in the US, making fake social media accounts to harass them, and recruiting an employee at an unnamed US telecoms company to have a pro-democracy activist removed from the platform.
The officers, who are thought to be in China, are said to be part of an MPS team called the “912 special project working group” that hunts down dissidents overseas.
In October, the supposed secret police station in New York was raided, and on Monday, the FBI arrested two New Yorkers who were thought to be in charge of it.
China has claimed that the New York site and other similar offices around the world are run by volunteers and have nothing to do with the police. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry again denied all claims of a police presence abroad and said that the US was making “baseless accusations.”
The US attorney for the eastern district of New York, Breon Peace, said there was now proof that Chinese cops were directly involved with the New York site.
“This unremarkable office building in the middle of Chinatown in lower Manhattan had a dark secret until a few months ago. It was two miles from our office, just across the Brooklyn Bridge. Peace said that the Chinese national police had a secret office on the whole floor of this building.
The station helped Chinese people do things like update their driver’s licenses, but the charges said that they didn’t register with the justice department as agents of a foreign government.
“It’s more worrying that the secret police station seems to have been used for something bad,” Peace said. “At least once, a Chinese national police official told one of the defendants, a US citizen who worked at the secret police station, to help find a pro-democracy activist of Chinese descent who lived in California. That defendant was a US citizen. In other words, it looks like the Chinese national police are using the station to follow a US citizen on US land.
“Harry” Lu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, were both arrested in New York. They are also charged with obstructing justice because they reportedly deleted evidence of their contacts with an MPS official from their phones before the FBI searched the Chinatown police station in October of last year. The Justice Department said that the two men admitted that they had deleted the information from their phones.
Chinese Police Stations Spy
The acting assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, Kurt Ronnow, said, “It is outrageous that China’s Ministry of public security thinks it can get away with setting up a secret, illegal police station on US soil to help it export repression and undermine our rule of law.” “This case is a strong reminder that the People’s Republic of China will do whatever it takes to get people to do what they want and shut down messages they don’t want people to hear.”
The tweet below confirms the news:
Safeguard Defenders, a Spanish civil rights group, said last year that there are dozens of Chinese police stations in places all over the world that spy on and harass people without their knowledge. Nine of the claimed stations were in Spain, four were in Italy, three were in France, two were in the Netherlands, and three were in the UK, in London and Glasgow.
Police are looking into how they work. Three others were in Canada, where the alleged operations added to rising political tensions between Ottawa and Beijing.
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