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Chinese 'community centers' accused in spy ring

By Elizabeth Delaney
|
April 24, 2023

Three Chinese organizations spread across the United States that have been claiming to be Chinese community centers have been identified as suspected of working with Beijing as part of a huge spy ring network.

The community centers are located in Omaha, Nebraska; San Francisco, California; and  Houston, Texas.

Community Center addresses and phone numbers connected to Chinese Community Party

While the centers claim to promote the celebration of Chinese culture and education, they have addresses and telephone numbers that show up on a list of overseas cells that were being operated by a branch of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is suspected by an NGO of being operated by a Beijing entity empowered to force its critics into being  silenced, according to the Daily Mail.

The locations of the suspected community centers were identified by the Daily Mail after two Chinese operatives were arrested by the FBI on April 17th for allegedly running an illegal police station in Manhattan's Chinatown.

Illegal police stations opened and operated by Chinese Community Party on U.S. soil

"Harry" Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan, were arrested in their homes in New York City on charges of allegedly conspiring to act as agents of the People's Republic of China (PRC) government, as well as obstructing justice by destroying the evidence that they communicated with a Ministry of Public Security (MPS) official, according to The United States Department of Justice.

Those operating the illegal police station became aware that the FBI was investigating it last year, and so they closed it in the fall of 2022. It was operating in an office building in Manhattan's Chinatown.

Lu and Chen were key players in helping to open and operate the illegal police station, doing so while under the direction and control of an MPS official.

There were also 44 Chinese nationals who were charged by federal prosecutors with organizing and carrying out a surveillance and harassment campaign against dissidents living in the United States, according to the Daily Mail.

"The PRC, through its repressive security apparatus, established a secret physical presence in New York City to monitor and intimidate dissidents and those critical of its government," Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division stated, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

"The PRC's actions go far beyond the bounds of acceptable nation-state conduct. We will resolutely defend the freedoms of all those living in our country from the threat of authoritarian repression," he said.

This prosecution, 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," U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York said.

"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 added.

"It is simply outrageous that China's Ministry of Public Security thinks it can get away with establishing a secret, illegal police station on U.S. soil to aid its efforts to export repression and subvert our rule of law," Acting assistant Director Kurt   Ronnow of the FBI Counterintelligence Division said.

He went on to note that this case serves as a 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."

Ronnow added that, "The FBI is dedicated to protecting everyone in the Unites 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."

House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer warned U.S. last month

Last month when the Chinese spy balloons hit the news headlines, House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer (KY-01) warned that the United States has "bigger" problems than the spy balloons, and went on to call out the "massive spy ring" operating in American institutions and stealing intellectual property, according to the NY Post.

“China continues to steal our intellectual property. They continue to steal our patents. They manipulate their currency. We believe they have a big footprint in academia with a massive spy ring within our research universities where they continue to steal our hard-earned research and development,” Comer told ABC News' "This Week" on Feb. 12.

Other overseas locations where Beijing has been reportedly operating illegal overseas police stations include London, Rome, Tokyo, and Toronto, according to Politico.