Two New York City residents were arrested earlier today for allegedly operating an illegal overseas police station in lower Manhattan on behalf of the Fuzhou branch of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Harry Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan, were charged with conspiring to act as agents of the PRC government as well as obstructing justice by destroying evidence of their communications with an MPS official.
The police station, which was located on a floor in an office building in Manhattan’s Chinatown, was the first of its kind established in the United States. The defendants are accused of working together under the direction and control of an MPS official to open and operate the clandestine police station. They did not inform the U.S. government that they were helping the PRC government surreptitiously open and operate an illegal MPS police station on U.S. soil.
“This prosecution reveals the Chinese government’s flagrant violation of our nation’s sovereignty by establishing a secret police station in the middle of New York City,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York.
“Such a police station has no place here in New York City – or any American community.”
The DOJ alleges that Lu had a longstanding relationship of trust with PRC law enforcement, including the MPS, before helping to open the police station in early 2022. Since 2015, and through the operation of the secret police station, Lu was tasked with carrying out various activities, including assisting the PRC government’s repressive activities on U.S. soil.
In 2015, during PRC President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States, Lu participated in counterprotests in Washington, D.C., against members of a religion forbidden under PRC law. A deputy director of the MPS awarded Lu a plaque for the work he performed on behalf of the PRC government.
In 2018, Lu was enlisted in efforts to cause a purported PRC fugitive to return to the PRC. The victim reported being repeatedly harassed to return to the PRC, including through threats of violence made to the victim and the victim’s family in the United States and in the PRC.
In 2022, the MPS official sought Lu’s assistance in locating an individual living in California who is a pro-democracy activist. In turn, Lu enlisted the help of another co-conspirator. Later, when confronted by the FBI about these conversations, Lu denied that they occurred.
In October 2022, the FBI conducted a judicially authorized search of the illegal police station. In connection with the search, FBI agents interviewed both Lu and Chen and seized their phones. In reviewing the contents of these phones, FBI agents observed that communications between Lu and Chen, on the one hand, and the MPS official, on the other, appeared to have been deleted. In subsequent consensual interviews, Lu and Chen admitted to the FBI that they had deleted their communications with the MPS official after learning about the ongoing FBI investigation, thus preventing the FBI from learning the full extent of the MPS’s directions for the overseas police station.
“If convicted of conspiring to act as agents of the PRC, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The obstruction of justice charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison,” the DOJ said in a statement.
Acting Assistant Director Kurt Ronnow of the FBI Counterintelligence Division said, “This case serves as a powerful reminder that the People’s Republic of China will stop at nothing to bend people to their will and silence messages they don’t want anyone to hear. The FBI is dedicated to protecting everyone in the United States”