Claims have been circulating online for months that the Chinese government was secretly operating police stations in New York City.
In February, dozens of protesters gathered outside a building they suspected was a Chinese outpost, allegedly being used for police operations and spying on Chinese dissidents, or persons critical of the Chinese government.
Several VERIFY viewers reached out and asked if the U.S. is really investigating the Chinese government for having a secret police station in New York.
Is the U.S. government investigating a secret Chinese police station in New York City?
- The Department of Justice
- U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York court records via PACER
- Nov. 17, 2022 Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs committee hearing
- China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Yes, the U.S. government is investigating a secret Chinese police station in New York City.
WHAT WE FOUND
On April 17, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced two Chinese nationals living in New York were arrested and charged with illegally operating a police station on behalf of the Chinese government.
“Harry” Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan, were charged with conspiring to act as agents of the People’s Republic of China and obstructing justice by destroying evidence of their communications with a Ministry of Public Security (MPS) official. The MPS oversees all of China’s law enforcement.
The Chinese police station began operating on a floor of an office building in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood in January 2022 under the guise of a nonprofit that offered basic services, such as helping Chinese citizens renew their Chinese drivers licenses, the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York said.
The station, however, also took on roles beyond ordinary bureaucracy, including locating Chinese dissidents living in the U.S., officials said.
During an October 2022 FBI raid on the building, investigators found evidence that Lu and Chen destroyed communications between the Chinese government and China’s national police, court records said. Evidence also showed that the station was opened on behalf of the city of Fuzhou’s branch of the MPS in order to monitor and intimidate Chinese dissidents, court records said.
In addition to charging Lu and Chen, the DOJ also charged 34 officers in the MPS with creating and using thousands of fake social media accounts on Twitter and other platforms to harass dissidents abroad.
In November 2022, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs committee the FBI was aware of stations like this one allegedly operating in the U.S. Wray also suggested an investigation into the stations was ongoing.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) also mentioned the operation of foreign police stations in the U.S. during a hearing on Nov. 17, 2022. Scott asked Wray if the FBI was aware of these operations and asked what, if any, authority or jurisdiction the Chinese police might have in the U.S.
“I’m very concerned about this. We are aware of the existence of these stations,” Wray said.
Wray continued, “The reason this is so important is because we have seen a clear pattern of the Chinese government, the Chinese communist party, exporting their repression right here in the U.S. And we’ve had now a number of indictments that you may have seen of the Chinese engaging in uncoordinated ‘law enforcement action’ right here in the United States – harassing, stalking, surveilling, blackmailing, people who they just don’t like or disagree with the [Xi Jinping] regime.”
In response to the charges against the Chinese nationals, China's Minister of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Wang Wenbin on April 18 denied all accusations of an overseas police presence, saying the U.S. was making “groundless accusations.”
“About the ‘overseas police stations,’ we have made it clear many times that the allegation has no factual basis. There are simply no so-called ‘overseas police stations.’ China adheres to the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, strictly observes international laws and respects the judicial sovereignty of all countries. We hope relevant parties will not hype up or dramatize this,” Wang said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.