Two men have been detained by US authorities in New York for allegedly running a Chinese “secret police station” in the Chinatown area of Manhattan. Two New York City residents, Lu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, are accused of plotting to serve as agents for China and obstructing the course of justice.
On Monday, they need to show up in federal court in Brooklyn.
‘Secret’ stations shut down
The US Department of Justice claimed on Monday that Chen of Manhattan and Lu of the Bronx collaborated to open the country’s first overseas police station for the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.
Breon Pearce, the senior prosecutor in Brooklyn, claimed that “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.”
“The PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] actions go far beyond the bounds of acceptable nation-state conduct.” According to associate attorney general Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, “We will resolutely defend the freedoms of all those living in our country from the threat of authoritarian repression.”
According to the department, the outpost was shut down in the fall of 2022 after individuals involved learned that the FBI was looking into the station.
Accused men reveal contacting Chinese officials
When the FBI searched the alleged station in October 2022, Lu and Chen were questioned by officials. Prosecutors claimed that when their phones were confiscated as part of the search, both individuals revealed they had deleted communications with a Chinese Ministry of Public Security officer who was allegedly controlling their activity in the US.
Prosecutors claim that Lu has contacts to Chinese law enforcement and that he was hired to assist China with “repressive activities” in the US starting in 2015, including harassing Chinese dissidents.
Both Lu and Chen may spend up to 25 years in jail if found guilty.
The stations are thought to be among the 100 or so that are currently in operation worldwide in 53 nations, including the UK and the Netherlands. Additionally, Canada’s federal police launched a probe into two locations in the Montreal region that were allegedly used as police outposts last month. The federal police of Canada requested Chinese Canadians who may have received threats from “alleged Chinese police stations” to come forward last month.
The locations are “overseas service stations” built during the pandemic to help citizens abroad with driver’s licence renewal and similar issues, according to Chinese embassies in the US and Canada. Prior to this, China has denied running the stations, referring to them as “service centres” for citizens living abroad.
However, human rights organisations have charged China with using the outposts to intimidate and watch over Chinese citizens abroad.