Two NY residents arrested for allegedly running a secret Chinese police station in Manhattan

The Department of Justice detailed a “sinister” effort by the Chinese government to target American citizens after arresting two suspects said to have been running a secret police station in New York City.

(Video: WNYW)

Monday, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace representing the Eastern District of New York held a press conference after a complaint was unsealed in federal court. According to the document, Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping, both U.S. citizens, were arrested Monday and charged with conspiring to act as agents of the People’s Republic of China in addition to obstructing justice for deleting communications.

China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) “has repeatedly and flagrantly violated our nation’s sovereignty, including by opening and operating a police station in the middle of New York City,” Peace said at a press conference.

“Two miles from our office, just across the Brooklyn Bridge, this nondescript office building in the heart of bustling Chinatown in Lower Manhattan has a dark secret. Until several months ago, an entire floor of this building hosted an undeclared police station of the Chinese National Police,” he described. “Now just imagine the NYPD opening an undeclared secret police station in Beijing. It would be unthinkable.”

“Here’s what we know happened inside the secret police station in Lower Manhattan. At the very least, the station was providing some government services, like helping Chinese citizens renew their Chinese driver’s licenses,” Peace explained. “But to do even that, the law requires that individuals like the defendants who act as agents of a foreign government give prior notice to the attorney general before setting up shop in New York City. That didn’t happen.”

“More troubling, though, is the fact that the secret police station appears to have had a more sinister use on at least one occasion,” the attorney detailed.

“An official with the Chinese National Police directed one of the defendants — a U.S. citizen who worked at the secret police station — to help locate a pro-democracy activist of Chinese descent living in California. In other words,” Peace leveled, “the Chinese national police appear to have been using the station to track a U.S. resident on U.S. soil.”

Representing the FBI who made the arrest, Michael Driscoll, assistant director-in-charge of the New York field office, noted, “Not only was the police station set up on the order of MPS officials, but members of the Chinese consulate in New York even paid a visit to it after it opened.”

Previously, Peace had indicted others with ties to the PRC who were allegedly involved in a “multifaceted campaign to silence, harass, discredit and spy on U.S. residents for exercising their freedom of speech…”

Monday’s criminal complaints weren’t limited to Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping. Charges were also announced against 34 MPS police officers called the “912 Special Project Working Group” for allegedly perpetrating a transnational repression scheme against those advocating for democracy in the PRC.

“This task force isn’t a normal police force,” Peace said. “It doesn’t protect people or combat crimes. It commits crimes targeting Chinese democracy activists and dissidents located outside of the People’s Republic of China, including right here in New York City.”

He elaborated, “This task force operates as an internet troll farm, creating thousands of fake online personas, which they use in a coordinated plot to harass dispatch, reach and threaten dissidents and activists throughout the world. People who the PRC perceives as threats to the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Those 34 defendants were all believed to be residing in China.

A third complaint named 10 additional people, also alleged to be working to silence dissenters.

Should Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping be convicted, they face a maximum of five years in prison for conspiring to act as agents of the PRC. Obstruction of justice would warrant, at most, 20 years in prison.

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