Why are Chinese “police stations” in U.S. cities?
BACKGROUNDER | More than 100 covert Chinese outposts reportedly exist worldwide
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On April 17, the FBI arrested two U.S. citizens for operating an illegal Chinese police station in New York City’s Chinatown. Federal prosecutors charged Lu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, with conspiring to act as agents of China—the two allegedly helped track a pro-democracy activist of Chinese descent residing in California. The Manhattan station is just one of more than 100 covert Chinese outposts believed to exist worldwide.
How did these stations come to light? Safeguard Defenders, a Spain-based human rights organization, has been investigating China’s use of extrajudicial means to return individuals—including criminal suspects and dissidents—to China against their will. Analyzing Chinese government data and Chinese media reports, the organization last year reported on at least 102 clandestine Chinese overseas outposts.
Where are the outposts located? The sites are spread across 53 countries, including Australia, Brazil, France, Nigeria, and Japan. According to the New York Post, researchers have identified other U.S. locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and cities in Nebraska and Minnesota—plus a second station in New York City.
What does China say about them? Wang Wenbin, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on April 18 there was “no such thing as an overseas police station” and accused the United States of a “smear and political manipulation.” Liu Pengyu, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the United States, told Newsweek the centers are run by volunteers with “no employment or affiliation with any Chinese government agency” to help overseas Chinese citizens with administrative tasks, such as renewing their Chinese driver’s licenses.
Who’s coordinating these stations? According to U.S. federal prosecutors, the Manhattan station run by Lu and Chen is the first Chinese overseas police station in the United States affiliated with the Fuzhou branch of China’s Ministry of Public Security. Safeguard Defenders found that police jurisdictions belonging to the Chinese cities Nantong and Wenzhou and the county of Qingtian were also involved in setting up the outposts worldwide.
How do the stations expand China’s policing efforts? They allegedly facilitate China’s transnational repression efforts. Chinese dissident Wang Jingyu, granted asylum in the Netherlands, said he was threatened by men claiming to be overseas Chinese police officers, who pressured him to return to China. Safeguard Defenders in a December report identified one station in France under the Wenzhou police jurisdiction that pressured another person to return to China. The organization also reported that Nantong’s overseas police system assisted in at least 80 cases of “capture and/or persuasion to return.”