(LifeSiteNews) — Two men were arrested and charged Monday for allegedly “opening and operating an illegal overseas police station” in an office building in Manhattan’s Chinatown on behalf of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of the communist People’s Republic of China, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Harry” Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan were arrested at their New York homes on Monday morning and scheduled to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge that afternoon in Brooklyn, according to the DOJ statement. Lu and Chen have been “charged with conspiring to act as agents of the PRC government as well as obstructing justice by destroying evidence of their communications with an MPS official.”
If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison for the conspiracy charge and 20 years behind bars for obstruction of justice.
Forty-four members of China’s national police have been separately charged with “various crimes” committed in attempts to track down and harass Chinese dissidents who have fled to the U.S.
According to the DOJ, Lu and Chen allegedly “worked together to establish the first overseas police station in the United States on behalf of the Fuzhou branch of the MPS” before shutting down the station in fall 2022 after learning they were under FBI investigation.
The Hill reported that the police station appeared to have been used for some benign activities, such as “helping Chinese citizens with services like driver’s licenses,” but U.S. law enforcement said the employees weren’t appropriately registered as foreign agents.
Moreover, the DOJ press release noted that Lu had worked in collaboration with PRC law enforcement officials since 2015, long before standing up the police station last year.
According to the DOJ, Lu participated in counterprotests in Washington, D.C. on behalf of Beijing during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s U.S. visit, and in 2018 harassed and threatened a “purported PRC fugitive” in an effort to pressure the individual to return to China. In 2022, Lu allegedly aided a PRC law enforcement official in locating a pro-democracy activist in California, something Lu later denied when questioned by the FBI.
FBI agents searched the illegal New York police station in October 2022, at which time they “interviewed both Lu and Chen and seized their phones,” the DOJ said, noting that while “reviewing the contents of these phones, FBI agents observed that communications between Lu and Chen, on the one hand, and the MPS Official, on the other, appeared to have been deleted.”
Lu and Chen later acknowledged they had scrubbed the messages after becoming aware the FBI was investigating them, the DOJ said.
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York said the prosecution of Lu and Chen “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.”
“As alleged, the defendants and their co-conspirators were tasked with doing the PRC’s bidding, including helping locate a Chinese dissident living in the United States, and obstructed our investigation by deleting their communications. Such a police station has no place here in New York City — or any American community,” Peace said.
News of the arrests comes after an investigative report released in October 2022 by human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders indicated that operatives with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had opened at least one “overseas police service station” in the U.S. in an “illegal” effort to monitor Chinese citizens living abroad, LifeSiteNews previously reported.
Safeguard Defenders noted that one CCP-run law enforcement station was housed in New York City. An expert warned at the time the illegal station could enable the CCP to engage in “sabotage” or “espionage.”
Located at 107 East Broadway, the New York outpost flagged in the report was allegedly among the “first batch” established by the CCP’s Public Security Bureau and opened February 15 inside the headquarters of the American ChangLe Association (ACA), The Epoch Times reported.
More police stations operate out of Toronto in Canada, LifeSite previously reported. Other major western cities that house the stations include Dublin and London.
In a statement included in the DOJ press release, Acting Assistant Director Kurt Ronnow of the FBI Counterintelligence Division said the “case serves as a powerful reminder that the People’s Republic of China will stop at nothing to bend people to their will and silence messages they don’t want anyone to hear.”
“The FBI is dedicated to protecting everyone in the United States against efforts to undermine our democratic freedoms, and we’ll hold any state actors — and those who help them — accountable for breaking our laws,” Ronnow said.