New York, Apr 17 (EFE).- The US Department of Justice on Monday charged two individuals with opening and operating an illegal Chinese government police station in the New York City borough of Manhattan.
The complaint, unsealed in a federal court in the neighboring borough of Brooklyn, charges the defendants with working at the behest of the Chinese government’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS).
“Harry” Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and 59-year-old Chen Jinping of Manhattan were arrested Monday morning at their homes in New York City and are charged with conspiring to act as agents of the Chinese government as well as obstructing justice by destroying evidence of their communications with an MPS official when confronted by the FBI, the complaint alleges.
“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,” Breon Peace, US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was quoted as saying in the Justice Department’s press release.
“As alleged, the defendants and their co-conspirators were tasked with doing the (Chinese government’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.”
The complaint said that the station, which operated for several months and was closed in the fall of 2022 after those running it became aware of the FBI’s investigation, occupied a floor in an office building in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
Prior to helping open the station in early 2022, Lu allegedly had a “long-standing relationship of trust” with Chinese law enforcement, including the MPS, the Justice Department said.
In 2018, he was purportedly recruited to help coerce a purported fugitive of Chinese justice to return to his homeland.
That victim “reported being repeatedly harassed to return (to China), including through threats of violence made to the victim and the victim’s family in the United States” and in the Asian country, the Justice Department said.
Peace also said that on more than one occasion Chinese security forces had asked for Lu’s assistance in locating a pro-democracy activist living in California.
If convicted of conspiring to act as agents of the Chinese government, the defendants face up to five years in prison, while the obstruction of justice charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Separately, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York on Monday charged 44 defendants with different crimes related to efforts by the MPS to harass Chinese nationals residing in the New York metropolitan area and elsewhere in the US.
Those defendants included 40 MPS officers and two officials in the Cyberspace Administration of China, the Justice Department said, adding that they “allegedly perpetrated transnational repression schemes” targeting US residents who expressed views frowned upon by Beijing, such as advocating for democracy in China.
“In the two schemes, the defendants created and used fake social media accounts to harass and intimidate (Chinese) dissidents residing abroad and sought to suppress the dissidents’ free speech on the platform of a US telecommunications company,” the Justice Department said in its news release.
“The defendants charged in these schemes are believed to reside in China, or elsewhere in Asia, and remain at large.” EFE