UNITED STATES: U.S. Federal agents detained two New Yorkers on Monday for allegedly running a Chinese “secret police station” in Manhattan’s Chinatown, in what prosecutors claim was part of a crackdown on Beijing’s suspected targeting of dissidents.
Lu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, are accused of conspiring to act as Chinese government agents without informing American authorities and obstructing justice. They were granted bond following their initial court appearance in Brooklyn federal court.
A 2022 study published by the Spain-based advocacy organisation Safeguard Defenders stated that China had established offshore “service stations,” including one in New York, that illegally collaborated with Chinese police to pressure fugitives to return to China.
The Chinese government has claimed that centres outside China that assist the nation’s citizens with document renewal and other services are run by local volunteers, not Chinese police officials.
The Department of Justice has been intensifying its investigations into what it refers to as “transnational repression” carried out by American foes like China and Iran against political opponents who reside in the country.
Breon Peace, the senior federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, told reporters that “we cannot and will not tolerate the Chinese government’s persecution of pro-democracy activists who have sought refuge in this country.”
On Monday, prosecutors announced charges against 34 Chinese government employees for allegedly running a “troll farm” and harassing dissidents online, including by interrupting their meetings on American technology platforms.
They also added eight Chinese administration officials as defendants in a case brought in 2020 charging a former Zoom Video Communications Inc. (ZM.O) executive with headquarters in China of tampering with video meetings honouring the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. The officials accused are all at large.
“By initiating prosecution against Chinese citizens under the pretext of ‘transnational repression’, the U.S. side is exercising long-arm jurisdiction based on fabricated charges. This is sheer political manipulation, and the purpose is to smear China’s image,” a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the United States, Liu Pengyu, said.
Prosecutors said that Lu and Chen, who are both citizens of the United States, are the directors of a nonprofit organisation whose stated purpose is to serve as a social hub for residents of China’s Fujian province.
The men’s New York operation took up the entirety of a floor in a plain building in Chinatown, close to the Manhattan Bridge, until it closed in the fall of 2022.
They stated that in 2022, Lu assisted with the opening of the so-called police station and received a request from the Chinese government to find a pro-democracy activist who was thought to be residing in California. According to the prosecution, in 2018, Lu attempted to convince a person who was a fugitive in China to return home.
Prosecutors stated Lu and Chen acknowledged to the FBI that they deleted their contacts with a Chinese government officer.
In November, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated to a U.S. Senate committee that he was “very concerned” about the existence of such stations in American cities.
Prosecutors had previously accused more than a dozen Chinese nationals and other individuals of conducting surveillance and harassment campaigns against dissidents living in the United States, including by attempting to forcibly repatriate people who China believed to be fugitives.