US arrests two for setting up Chinese “secret police station” in New York
NEW YORK (Reuters) -U.S. law enforcement officials on Monday arrested two New York residents for allegedly operating a Chinese "secret police station" in Manhattan's Chinatown, part of a crackdown on Beijing's alleged targeting of U.S.-based dissidents.
Lu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, face charges of conspiring to act as agents of China's government without informing U.S. authorities and obstruction of justice. They are expected to appear in Brooklyn federal court later on Monday.
The charges come as the Department of Justice ramps up probes into what it calls "transnational repression" by U.S. adversaries such as China and Iran to intimidate political opponents living in the United States.
"We cannot and will not tolerate the Chinese government's persecution of pro-democracy activists who have sought refuge in this country," Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, told reporters.
Also on Monday, prosecutors unveiled charges against 34 Chinese officials for allegedly operating a "troll farm" and harassing dissidents online, including by disrupting their meetings on U.S. technology platforms.
They also added eight Chinese government officials as defendants in a case announced in 2020 charging a former China-based executive of Zoom Video Communications Inc with disrupting video meetings commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
The officials charged are all at large.
China's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lu and Chen are both U.S. citizens who lead a nonprofit organization that lists its mission as providing a social gathering place for people from China's Fujian province, prosecutors said.
Lu in 2018 sought to persuade an individual considered a fugitive by China to return home, prosecutors said. In 2022, he helped open the so-called police station and was asked by China's government to locate an individual living in California who was considered a pro-democracy activist, they added.
Prosecutors said Lu and Chen admitted to the FBI that they deleted their communications with a Chinese government official. The police station closed in the fall of 2022, according to prosecutors.
Monday's charges come after FBI Director Christopher Wray told a U.S. Senate committee in November that he was "very concerned" about the presence of such stations in U.S. cities.
Prosecutors previously charged more than a dozen Chinese nationals and others with waging surveillance and harassment campaigns against dissidents living in the United States, including by trying to forcibly repatriate people whom China considered fugitives.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York and Susan Heavey in Washington; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Washington; Editing by Peter Graff, Mark Porter and Bill Berkrot)