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FBI arrests two alleged Chinese agents and charges dozens with working inside US to silence dissidents | CNN Politics

FBI arrests two alleged Chinese agents and charges dozens with working inside US to silence dissidents | CNN Politics





CNN
 — 

The FBI has arrested two alleged Chinese agents and federal prosecutors have charged dozens of others with working to silence and harass dissidents within the United States – with some even operating an “undeclared police station” in New York City.

Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping allegedly operated the police station in New York City’s Chinatown. Both men are US citizens and have been charged with conspiring to act as agents of the Chinese government and obstructing justice.

They are expected to appear in federal court in New York on Monday, according to John Marzulli, a spokesman for the US Attorney in the Eastern District of New York. The police station has been shut down since a search warrant was executed at the location last fall, the spokesman said.

The Justice Department also announced charges against 34 officers of the national police of the People’s Republic of China with harassing Chinese nationals in the US critical of the Chinese government.

All 34 are believed to live in China and remain at large, according to Justice Department. The officers were part of an effort by the Chinese government called the “912 Special Project Working Group” to influence global perceptions of the People’s Republic of China, or PRC.

The agents allegedly used social media to post favorably about the PRC and to attack their “perceived adversaries,” including the United States and Chinese pro-democracy activists around the world, the Justice Department said. The illegal police operation is the “first known overseas police station in the United States” set up on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, or MPS, the Justice Department said.

The agents were allegedly directed by the MPS to create and maintain accounts that looked like they were run by American citizens. Topics of their propaganda machine include US foreign policy, human rights issues in Hong Kong, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Covid-19 and racial justice protests following the murder of George Floyd, according to prosecutors.

Agents also posted videos and articles targeting Chinese pro-democracy advocates in the US, the Justice Department alleged, some of which included explicit death threats. In addition, the agents allegedly used threats to intimidate people into skipping pro-democracy protests within the United States.

“The PRC, through its repressive security apparatus, established a secret physical presence in New York City to monitor and intimidate dissidents and those critical of its government,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a statement. “The PRC’s actions go far beyond the bounds of acceptable nation-state conduct. We will resolutely defend the freedoms of all those living in our country from the threat of authoritarian repression.”

According to court documents, the secret police station was set up in early 2022 to identify, track and intimidate Chinese dissidents within the United States.

Prosecutors say one such victim was an unnamed person living in California who was a “PRC dissident and PRC pro-democracy advocate” who “reported to the FBI that he/she served as an adviser to a 2022 congressional candidate from New York State” who also was the target of a PRC pressure campaign.

That victim told the FBI that they have received threatening phone calls and social media messages from people they believe are associated with the Chinese government, and that person’s car was broken into immediately after that person gave a pro-democracy speech.

During an interview with the FBI, Lu said that he had established the office, which he called an “oversees service center,” to help Chinese nationals living in the United States “renew Chinese government documents.” Lu told investigators during the interview that Chen acted as the primary point of contact with officials back in China.

During a separate interview, Chen initially denied having any direct contact with the Chinese government, according to court documents, though he later recanted.

Investigators say that during that interview, Chen took a seven-minute bathroom break, during which an agent repeatedly warned him through the bathroom door not to delete anything on his phone. When agents later searched the phone, they found that chat logs with MPS officials had been cleared.

Both Lu and Chen later acknowledged deleting messages between themselves and their liaison in the MPS, according to court documents.

This story has been updated with additional details.



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