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Two arrested for conspiring to act as Chinese spies

By Ben Marquis
|
April 18, 2023

A number of Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, along with other international watchdogs, have raised the alarm about Chinese infiltration and espionage in the United States and other countries, and a major law enforcement development would appear to confirm such suspicions.

The Justice Department announced on Monday that it had arrested two Chinese nationals living in New York City and charged them with harassing and spying upon Chinese dissidents living in America, the Daily Mail reported.

In a related announcement on Monday, the DOJ also revealed that it had charged more than three dozen other Chinese nationals and government officials for similarly harassing and working to repress Chinese dissidents living abroad in America and other nations around the world.

Two arrested for operating secret Chinese police station in NYC

A DOJ press release on Monday announced that two members of the Chinese communist regime's Ministry of Public Security had opened and operated a secret police station in a Manhattan office building from which they worked to keep tabs on and harass Chinese dissidents residing in New York City.

Lu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, of the Bronx and Manhattan, respectively, were arrested at their homes Monday morning and arraigned before a federal judge later that same day.

They are both charged with conspiring to act as agents of a foreign government, which could land them in prison for up to five years, as well as obstructing justice by deleting messages from superior officers, which could net them up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The secret police station, which may have begun operating as early as 2015, was located in Manhattan's Chinatown, and was swiftly closed down in late 2022 after the two defendants learned of the ongoing federal investigation. That is likely also when they deleted all messages received from superior MPS officers in order to deny investigators "from learning the full extent of the MPS’s directions for the overseas police station."

"Outrageous" scheme denounced

"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 Olsen of the DOJ’s National Security Division said in a statement. "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."

"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 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."

They were both echoed by Acting Assistant Director Kurt Ronnow of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, who said, "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."

"This 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," he added.

Charges issued against 44 Chinese nationals over alleged harassment, repression of dissidents

In a related news release, the DOJ also announced on Monday that it had filed two separate but related complaints that criminally charged a total of 44 Chinese defendants – including 40 MPS officers and two officials with the Cyberspace Administration of China – over their alleged involvement in a scheme to harass and repress Chinese dissidents living in the United States.

The defendants, who are believed to be located in China or other foreign nations, are accused of using multiple fake social media accounts to harass and intimidate Chinese dissidents in America, as well as to have worked through an unnamed U.S. telecommunications company to silence and suppress the free speech and online activities of said dissidents.

"These cases demonstrate the lengths the PRC government will go to silence and harass U.S. persons who exercise their fundamental rights to speak out against PRC oppression, including by unlawfully exploiting a U.S.-based technology company," Assistant AG Olsen said. "These actions violate our laws and are an affront to our democratic values and basic human rights."

"China’s Ministry of Public Security used operatives to target people of Chinese descent who had the courage to speak out against the Chinese Communist Party – in one case by covertly spreading propaganda to undermine confidence in our democratic processes and, in another, by suppressing U.S. video conferencing users’ free speech," FBI Acting Assistant Director Ronnow said. "We aren’t going to tolerate CCP repression – its efforts to threaten, harass, and intimidate people – here in the United States. The FBI will continue to confront the Chinese government’s efforts to violate our laws and repress the rights and freedoms of people in our country."

Watchdog group's report seemingly confirmed

These actions by the DOJ appear to be related to or stem from a CNN report in December 2022 about the findings of an international watchdog group known as Safeguard Defenders and its report at that time about an estimated 100 or more secret Chinese police stations that were being surreptitiously operated in at least 53 different nations around the globe.

Those secret police stations are alleged to serve as bases from which Chinese government operatives can harass and intimidate and threaten Chinese dissidents living abroad, though the Chinese government has vehemently denied the allegations and insisted that secret police stations were only intended to provide assistance with administrative issues for Chinese expatriates in other nations.