Federal agents arrested two men on Monday on charges related to an alleged secret Chinese police station in New York City’s Chinatown that was raided and shut down last fall.
Lu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, have been accused of acting as agents for the People’s Republic of China in connection with the “overseas police station,” as the FBI described it, the New York Times reported.
Lu is a naturalized American citizen living in the Bronx and also goes by the name Harry Lu. Chen, whose citizenship was not immediately confirmed, lives in Manhattan, the Times reported.
“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,” federal prosecutor Breon Peace said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The Chinese police outpost was allegedly one of more than 100 that have been documented in dozens of countries, which officials are increasingly worried about as a way for China to spy and keep tabs on its people abroad.
The Chinese Embassy has said “there is no need to make people nervous” about the operations, which it said are staffed by volunteers helping Chinese nationals with routine tasks like renewing their Chinese driver’s licenses, as reported by the Times.
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Officials in Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands have called for outposts to be shut down, while the U.S. moves against the Chinatown operation mark the first time criminal charges have been connected to one of the outposts, the Times reported.
The arrests of Lu and Chen come as U.S.-China relations, which had been souring for years, have hit dramatic new lows – particularly over Taiwan, a self-governing island China claims as its own, and the Chinese spy balloon that flew over the U.S. in February.
The two men are expected to appear in Brooklyn federal court Monday to face charges of obstruction of justice and acting as an agent of the Chinese government without informing U.S. authorities, Reuters reported.
The alleged Chinatown outpost was located in the offices of a nonprofit organization called the America Changle Association NY. IRS filings from 2018 list Lu as the organization’s president, while no connection between it and Chen could be immediately determined, according to the Times.
This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.