Charges against “Harry” Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan include obstruction of justice and conspiring to operate as agents of the Chinese government. An FBI agent claimed that the defendants constructed a covert police station under the control of China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) in a Manhattan office building in a 30-page document that was attached to a criminal complaint.
According to the Justice Department, the two individuals assisted with the establishment of the outpost in 2022 and destroyed all correspondence with a representative of the MPS after learning of the FBI’s inquiry. Later on Monday, both are scheduled to appear in federal court in Brooklyn.
Kurt Ronnow, the acting assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, said: “It is simply outrageous that China’s Ministry of Public Security thinks it can get away with setting up a secret, illegal police station on U.S. soil to aid its efforts to export repression and undermine our rule of law. This case is a potent reminder that the People’s Republic of China will do whatever it takes to subjugate its citizens and stifle any words they don’t want the world to hear.
According to the Reuters news agency, China refuted the U.S. claims on the police stations on Tuesday, asserting that they don’t exist and that China has a policy of not meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. This is according to Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Wang Wenbin.
According to Agence France-Presse, Wenbin said that “political manipulation” was the cause of the arrests.
He is quoted by AFP as stating, “China firmly opposes the US side’s smearing, smearing, engaging in political manipulation, and maliciously concocting the so-called transnational repression narrative.”
The People’s Republic of China, to which reference is made in the Justice Department’s statement, is accused of using fake social media accounts to intimidate Chinese dissidents living in the United States and spread “official PRC government propaganda and narratives to counter the pro-democracy speech of the Chinese dissidents,” according to a separate complaint filed against nearly three dozen MPS officers.
The 34 defendants, who are all thought to be Chinese citizens, are accused of participating in a secretive task force called the “912 Special Project Working Group” that sought out and persecuted Chinese dissidents abroad in an attempt to stifle criticism of the Chinese government. According to court papers that were unveiled on Monday, other people are accused of interfering with online conferences where subjects that were critical of the Chinese government were addressed.
The organisation reportedly ran a “troll farm” of thousands of fictitious social media accounts on websites like Twitter to spread propaganda for the Chinese government and find agents in the United States to do the same. In one incident, members of the 912 Group reportedly used obscene language, loud music, and threats to disrupt an online anti-communism meeting organised by a Chinese dissident.
Ten additional people—six of them are MPS officers—are charged with attempting to suppress the political and religious statements of Americans who were critical of the Chinese government.
Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, stated: “As alleged, the PRC government deploys its national police and the 912 Special Project Working Group not as an instrument to uphold the law and protect public safety, but rather as a troll farm that attacks people in our country for exercising their right to free speech in a way that the PRC government finds objectionable and also spreads propaganda whose sole purpose is to sow divisions within the United States.”
The Justice Department’s most recent attempts to stop the transnational harassment of foreign dissidents residing in the United States include the charges filed on Monday, the first to target covert Chinese police outposts anywhere in the globe. Federal prosecutors accused more than a dozen defendants, the majority of whom were Chinese officials, of taking part in plots to repatriate political opponents of the Chinese government, obtain confidential information about an investigation into a Chinese telecom company, and enlist spies to work as Chinese government agents in the United States.