FBI makes arrests over alleged secret Chinese ‘police stations’ in New York

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Eati Akter

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US prosecutors have arrested two men in New York for allegedly operating a Chinese “secret police station” in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighbourhood.

Liu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, both New York City residents, face charges of conspiring to act as agents for China and obstruction of justice.

They are expected to appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Monday.

China has previously denied operating the stations, calling them “service centres” for nationals overseas.

Mr. Jianwang and Mr. Jinping worked together to establish the first overseas police station in the United States on behalf of China’s Ministry of Public Security, the US Department of Justice alleged on Monday.

The outpost was closed in the fall of 2022, the department said, after those involved became aware of an FBI investigation into the station.

Americans in the crosshairs of China’s spy game

“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,” said Breon Pearce, the top prosecutor in Brooklyn.

The stations are believed to be among at least 100 operating across the globe in 53 countries, including the UK and the Netherlands. And last month, Canada’s federal government announced an investigation into two Montreal-area sites thought to be police outposts.

“The PRC’s actions go far beyond the bounds of acceptable nation-state conduct. We will resolutely defend the freedoms of all those living in our country from the threat of authoritarian repression,” said assistant attorney general Matthew Olsen, from the Justice Department’s National Security Division

According to prosecutors, Mr. Jianwang was closely connected to Chinese law enforcement, and was enlisted to help China with “repressive activities” in the US beginning in 2015, including harassing Chinese dissidents.

In 2018, he allegedly participated in efforts to push a purported PRC fugitive to return to China, including repeated harassment and threats to the individual and his family, living in China and the US. And prosecutors said he was also enlisted to locate a pro-democracy activist in China. Mr. Jiangwang denied these actions when confronted by US authorities.

If convicted, both Mr. Jianwang and Mr. Jinping face up to 25 years in prison.

Chinese embassies in the US and Canada have said the locations are “overseas service stations” opened during the pandemic to assist nationals abroad with driver’s licence renewal and similar matters.

But human rights groups have accused China of using the outposts to threaten and monitor Chinese nationals abroad.

FBI director Christopher Wray said last November that his agency was monitoring reports of such stations, calling them a “real problem”.

“To me, it is outrageous to think that the Chinese police would attempt to set up shop, you know, in New York, let’s say, without proper coordination,” Mr. Wray said. “It violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial and law enforcement cooperation processes.”

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