NEW YORK: US law enforcement officials have arrested two New York residents for allegedly operating a Chinese “secret police station” in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighbourhood, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn said in a statement on Monday.
Liu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, face charges of conspiring to act as an agent of China’s government without informing US authorities and obstruction of justice, prosecutors said. They are expected to appear in federal court in Brooklyn federal court later on Monday.
The charges come as the Department of Justice ramps up probes into what they call attempts at “transnational repression” by US adversaries such as China and Iran to intimidate political opponents living in the United States.
“This prosecution reveals the Chinese government’s flagrant violation of our nation’s sovereignty by establishing a secret police station in the middle of New York City,” Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said in a statement.
Prosecutors said Lu in 2018 sought to persuade an individual considered a fugitive by China to return home, prosecutors said. That individual reported being harassed and threatened, prosecutors said.
China’s government in 2022 asked Lu to help locate an individual living in California who was considered a pro-democracy activist, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the pair had admitted to the FBI that they deleted their communications with a Chinese government official after learning that they were under investigation.
Federal prosecutors have charged more than a dozen Chinese nationals and others with waging surveillance and harassment campaigns against dissidents living in the United States, including by trying to forcibly repatriate people whom China considered fugitives.
The charges come after FBI Director Christopher Wray told a US Senate committee in November that he was “very concerned ” about the presence of such stations in US cities.
He said the Chinese government setting up a police presence in the United States “violates sovereignty” and circumvents law enforcement cooperation.