April 20, 2023

DOJ Shutters Chinese ‘Cop Shop’ in New York

The long arm of ChiCom “law” reached all the way to the Big Apple to silence dissent.

When we established relations with the Communist Chinese a half-century ago, it was thought that our influence would moderate their rigid tyrannical system. To the extent they have adopted our capitalist methods to bring us cheap goods, that may be true, but they have never stopped trying to influence our system for their ends, either.

Consider the phenomenon of TikTok, those collegiate Confucius Institutes, the intellectual property theft that ends up on Amazon, and the spy balloons that fly over our most sensitive military sites. Now consider the extent of our president’s typical response to such transgressions: perhaps a sternly worded memo.

Last year, though, it was discovered that agents affiliated with the Chinese government were operating an illegal “police station” in New York City’s Chinatown district that targeted dissidents and pro-democracy activists in our country with online harassment. “Harry” Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping, who are both American citizens, were arrested by federal officials and accused of operating what the federal charging documents call “an illegal overseas police station,” or, more specifically, “a provincial branch of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).”

While New York’s Chinatown is certainly a bastion of Chinese culture, it’s still a part of our sovereign nation. What it most certainly isn’t is a Chinese province. So who do the ChiComs think they are? And, more important, who do they think we are?

Chinese officials ran to a friendly outlet to call the charges “groundless,” claiming the facility was set up to help Chinese nationals with services such as renewing their driver’s licenses while abroad. As for Lu and Chen, they were just the easiest two to find out of 46 people accused of playing roles in this “police station.” The other 44 are believed to be Chinese nationals who “allegedly perpetrated transnational repression schemes targeting U.S. residents whose political views and actions are disfavored by the PRC government, such as advocating for democracy in the PRC.” Obviously, those defendants are still at large and may well wear this indictment as a badge of honor.

This so-called police station was in operation for roughly six months in 2022, closing in the fall once Lu and Chen became aware of the federal investigation. The obstruction of justice charges against them stem from their destroying evidence of their communication with MPS officials in the PRC.

As the editors at National Review point out: “While law enforcement is catching up, and while the FBI and DOJ have acted admirably to confront this threat and Chinese transnational repression more broadly, it seems that the feds initiated their investigation only after the report by Safeguard Defenders. In other words, it possibly took a bunch of researchers based in Madrid to make the FBI aware that China had a police station in New York.”

The stations, some of which are dubbed “110 overseas service stations” after the Chinese phone number for police emergencies, are based around the globe. The New York City branch is the only one discovered in America by the aforementioned Safeguard Defenders group, which claims about these stations: “The overseas service stations are primarily set up to conduct a series of seemingly administrative tasks to aid overseas Chinese in their community of residence abroad, but they also serve a far more sinister and wholly illegal purpose. While the evidence available so far suggests most transnational policing operations are carried out through the online tools of the domestically operated ‘overseas station’, some official anecdotes of official operations explicitly cite the active involvement of the Hometown Associations on the ground in tracking and pursuing targets indicated by the local Public Security Bureau or Procuratorate in China.”

The group euphemistically refers to these activities as “persuade to return” operations, and they often target the families of those accused of “fraud” by the PRC government.

Fitting that pattern, the federal charging documents note that Lu “was enlisted in efforts to cause a purported PRC fugitive to return to the PRC” in 2018, and in 2022 “the MPS Official sought Lu’s assistance in locating an individual living in California who is a pro-democracy activist.” The tentacles of a communist police state can be rather long.

As stated up top, the Chinese have multiple methods for exerting undue influence beyond their own borders. We may have discovered one of the more blatant ones, but surely we have a long way to go to bring all of it to light.

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