Two men have been arrested on charges they helped set up a a secret police outpost in New York City on behalf of the Chinese government, the Department of Justice said Monday.
The foreign police outpost was reportedly situated in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood, which borders the Lower East Side.
More than three dozen officers with China’s national police force have also been charged with using social media to harass dissidents in the U.S., according to the DOJ.
The charges and the arrests are part of a DOJ campaign to disrupt the Chinese government’s attempts to round up pro-democracy activists and critics of Beijing in the U.S.
In October, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced charges against 13 citizens of the People’s Republic of China, including members of the country’s security and intelligence forces. Among them were seven Chinese nationals who were arrested in New York in a campaign of threats and harassment—a scheme called “Operation Fox Hunt”—to force the repatriation of another Chinese national living in the U.S.
Monday’s announced bust concerned a local branch of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, which operated from a Chinatown office building before being shut down last fall. The DOJ says the two men arrested Monday were acting under the direction of a Chinese government official. They deleted communications with that official from their phones after they became aware the FBI was investigating their activities, according to the DOJ.
The men have been identified as “Harry” Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan. According to prosecutors, both are U.S. citizens.
The pair face charges of conspiring to act as agents of China’s government without informing U.S. authorities and obstruction of justice. They were expected to appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Monday.
“We cannot and will not tolerate the Chinese government’s persecution of pro-democracy activists who have sought refuge in this country,” top Brooklyn federal prosecutor Breon Peace told reporters.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in November that he was “very concerned” about such unauthorized Chinese “police stations” in the U.S.