On Monday, the FBI announced that it had arrested two residents of New York for allegedly running a Chinese government police station in secret, thus presenting a major national security threat.
According to Fox News, Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping were operating out of the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is charging them with conspiring to act as agents on behalf of the Chinese government. U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said that the Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) “has repeatedly and flagrantly violated our nation’s sovereignty, including by opening and operating a police station in the middle of New York City.”
“Two miles from our office, just across the Brooklyn Bridge, this nondescript office building in the heart of bustling Chinatown in Lower Manhattan has a dark secret,” said Peace in a statement. “Until several months ago, an entire floor of this building hosted an undeclared police station of the Chinese National Police. Now, just imagine the NYPD opening an undeclared secret police station in Beijing. It would be unthinkable.”
“The two defendants whose arrests we’re announcing today destroyed evidence of their communications with the Chinese national police when they learned of the FBI’s investigation,” Peace added. “These two defendants knew they had something to hide, and they obstructed justice in an attempt to prevent the FBI from learning the full extent of what they were up to.”
Both men were arrested in their homes on Monday morning. The pair, both of whom are U.S. citizens, are set to appear in court on Monday. They have been accused of conspiracy to transmit interstate threats, as well as conspiracy to commit interstate harassment.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) described their operation as a “significant national security matter.”
“In addition to threatening and harassing Chinese dissidents, the MPS officers use their fake online personas to spread official Chinese government propaganda and narratives to counter and overwhelm the dissidents’ pro-democracy speech,” said Peace. “The world now has a unique, never-before-seen view of how the PRC government deployed this army of Internet trolls.”
The arrest comes amid rising tensions between the United States and China. Earlier in the year, a Chinese spy balloon was discovered in American airspace, and has since been confirmed to have gathered intelligence from various military sites before it was finally shot down over the Atlantic Ocean. More recently, tensions have escalated between China and the island nation of Taiwan, with the former encircling the latter with warships and military aircraft over Easter Weekend, under the guise of “military exercises.”