The FBI arrested two alleged Chinese agents at their homes in New York City on Monday for allegedly running an illegal Chinese police station in the heart of New York City, according to court documents obtained by The Daily Beast.
The two alleged operatives, “Harry” Lu Jianwang of the Bronx and Chen Jinping of Manhattan, are accused of operating at the behest of Beijing and its Ministry of Public Security, China’s domestic security service, in order to silence critics of Beijing, court documents state.
The illegal overseas police outpost was established to threaten critics of China residing inside the United States and monitor them, U.S. officials said Monday.
For his part, Lu was allegedly responsible for helping Beijing locate a Chinese dissident living in California just last year, according to U.S. officials. He was also enlisted to harass a purported Chinese fugitive, in order to pressure them to return to China with threats of violence, according to the court documents. Lu has allegedly been participating in counterprotests in Washington, D.C. since about 2015.
When Lu and Chen became aware of an FBI probe into their activities, they destroyed evidence and erased their communications, U.S. officials said.
“It is simply outrageous that China’s Ministry of Public Security thinks it can get away with establishing a secret, illegal police station on U.S. soil to aid its efforts to export repression and subvert our rule of law,” Acting Assistant Director Kurt Ronnow of the FBI Counterintelligence Division said.
China’s national police service has also been running a secret army of trolls pretending to be Americans on social media in order to harass Chinese dissidents and amplify divisions in the United States, U.S. officials said Monday. Thirty-four individuals have been charged with using social media to harass and threaten Chinese dissidents, as well as trying to amplify division n the United States and undermine confidence in America democratic processes.
The social media troll group, known as the “912 Special Project Working Group,” allegedly focused on targeting those with political views that run counter to Beijing’s government interest, such as advocating for democracy in China.
On Monday, the Department of Justice also accused Julien Jin, an executive at Zoom, of working directly with and taking orders from China’s Ministry of Public Security and the Cyberspace Administration of China to disrupt Zoom meetings that touched on content that ran counter to China’s interests.
Prosecutors had previously announced charges against Jin for helping China disrupt and censor Zoom meetings focused on commemorating the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
“The charges you’ve heard about today reveal a series of brazen criminal schemes directed by the Ministry of Public Security,” David Sundberg, the FBI’s assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office said Monday of the operation.
The two men are expected to appear in court Monday afternoon in Brooklyn.
It’s not the first time the FBI has caught on to the China’s Ministry of Public Security’s efforts to run influence and disinformation operations in the United States. Last October authorities arrested two Chinese nationals and charged seven Chinese national for surveilling and harassing a U.S. resident to return to China.