DOJ accuses China of using 'police station' in Manhattan to spy on dissidents inside US

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Monday, April 17, 2023
DOJ accuses China of using NYC 'police station' to spy on dissidents
The FBI on Monday revealed what it said is evidence of expanding espionage and security activity by the Chinese government on U.S. soil. Lucy Yang has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The FBI on Monday revealed what it said is evidence of expanding espionage and security activity by the Chinese government on U.S. soil, including in Lower Manhattan.

The Justice Department announced three cases suggesting more brazen activity by China inside the U.S. in the wake of the spy balloon controversy.

One case involves Chinese security officials allegedly spying on Zoom calls and then harassing Chinese dissident participants identified as targets.

Ten Chinese officials were charged with conspiracy along with an employee of a telecommunications company. Sources told ABC News the company was Zoom and the insider from China allegedly was able to disrupt meetings on Zoom.

Another of the cases involves Chinese security officials allegedly setting up a "police station" in New York City and using it as a base of operations to spy on, co-opt or intimidate Chinese dissidents living in the city and elsewhere.

The charges unsealed allege two defendants were operating an illegal overseas "police station" -- the first ever in the U.S. -- located in lower Manhattan, for a provincial branch of the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Harry" Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan, were arrested earlier Monday morning at their homes in New York City.

The two suspects operated out a Manhattan office building in Chinatown at the direction of a Chinese police official, prosecutors alleged.

The police station - which closed in the fall of 2022 after those operating it became aware of the FBI's investigation - occupied a floor in an office building in Chinatown.

The men engaged in a number of activities on U.S. soil, prosecutors said, including participating in counter protests and targeting specific Chinese dissidents for harassment. The men arrested were expected in a Brooklyn federal court later Monday.

If convicted of conspiring to act as agents of the PRC, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The obstruction of justice charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The Justice Department also announced charges against 34 members of a specialized unit in China. The unit, run by the Chinese national police or Public Security Ministry, the U.S. said, allegedly created fake social media accounts, including on Twitter, to harass Chinese dissidents in the U.S. and to promote propaganda from China.

FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed concern about the Chinese "police stations" during a congressional hearing in November 2022.

"I'm very concerned about this. We are aware of the existence of these stations," Wray told a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing in November. "But to me, it is outrageous to think that the Chinese police would attempt to set up shop, you know, in New York, let's say, without proper coordination. It violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial and law enforcement cooperation processes," he added.

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