NEW YORK, April 17 (Reuters) – U.S. law enforcement officials on Monday arrested two New York residents who allegedly ran a Chinese “secret police station” in Manhattan’s Chinatown as part of Beijing’s alleged targeting of U.S.-based dissidents.
Lu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, face charges of obstruction of justice and conspiring to act as agents of the Chinese government without informing US authorities. They are expected to appear in federal court in Brooklyn later Monday.
The charges come as the Justice Department ramps up investigations into so-called “national repression” by US adversaries such as China and Iran to intimidate political opponents living in the US.
“We cannot and will not tolerate the Chinese government’s persecution of pro-democracy activists who have taken refuge in this country,” Bron Pease, a top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, told reporters.
On Monday, prosecutors filed charges against 34 Chinese officials for running a “troll farm” and harassing protesters online.
Eight Chinese government officials were named as defendants in a lawsuit announced in 2020 against a former China-based executive of Zoom Video Communications Inc ( ZM.O ) for disrupting video conferences commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
All the accused officials are absconding.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Both Lu and Chen are American citizens who lead a nonprofit organization that lists its mission as providing a community gathering place for people from China’s Fujian province, prosecutors said.
Lu tried to force the return of a man considered a fugitive by China in 2018, prosecutors said. In 2022, he helped open a so-called police station and was asked by the Chinese government to find a man living in California who was considered a pro-democracy activist.
Prosecutors said Lu and Chen admitted to the FBI that they had deleted contacts with a Chinese government official. According to prosecutors, the police station is slated to close in the fall of 2022.
Monday’s charges come after FBI Director Christopher Wray told a US Senate committee in November that he was “very concerned” about the presence of such stations in US cities.
Prosecutors previously accused a dozen Chinese nationals and others of conducting campaigns of surveillance and harassment against dissidents living in the United States.
Reporting by Luke Cohen and Susan Heavey; Editing by Toina Chiaku
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