CHINATOWN, Manhattan (PIX11) – Authorities have arrested two people for allegedly operating an illegal police station in Chinatown on behalf of the Chinese government, officials with the Justice Department announced Monday.
The men, identified as “Harry” Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan, both U.S. citizens, were arrested at their homes on Monday morning.
The two men are accused of acting under the direction and control of a Chinese government official and deleted communication with that official from their phones after learning of the FBI’s probe in an apparent effort to obstruct the inquiry, according to the Justice Department.
Authorities raided the police station on East Broadway, near Pike Street, officials said. Investigators believe the police station operated between early 2022 and the fall of 2022. While the police outpost performed some basic services, such as helping Chinese citizens renew their Chinese driver’s licenses, it also performed a more “sinister” function, including helping the Chinese government locate a pro-democracy activist of Chinese descent living in California, according to the officials.
At no point did the men register with the Justice Department as agents of a foreign government, U.S. law enforcement officials said.
“New York City is home to New York’s finest: the NYPD,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said at a news conference announcing the arrests. “We don’t need or want a secret police station in our great city.”
Though China is believed to be operating secretive police outposts in countries around the globe, Justice Department officials said these arrests were the first of their kind anywhere in the world.
“This is a blatant violation of our national sovereignty,” Michael Driscoll, the head of New York’s FBI field office, said at a news conference announcing the cases.
In a separate scheme announced Monday, the Justice Department charged 34 officers in the Ministry of Public Security with creating and using thousands of fake social media accounts on Twitter and other platforms to harass dissidents abroad.
The cases, taken together, are part of a series of Justice Department prosecutions in recent years aimed at disrupting Chinese government efforts to locate in America pro-democracy activists and others who are openly critical of Beijing’s policies.