US law enforcement officials have arrested two New York residents for allegedly operating a Chinese "secret police station" in Manhattan's Chinatown neighborhood, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn said in a statement on Monday.
Liu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, face charges of conspiring to act as an agent of China's government without informing US authorities, and obstruction of justice, prosecutors said. They are expected to appear in federal court in Brooklyn federal court later on Monday.
What does this mean for Chinese-American relations?
"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," Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said in a statement.
Prosecutors said Lu in 2018 sought to persuade an individual considered a fugitive by China to return home, prosecutors said. That individual reported being harassed and threatened, prosecutors said.
China's government in 2022 asked Lu to help locate an individual living in California considered a pro-democracy activist, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the pair had admitted to the FBI that they deleted their communications with a Chinese government official after learning they were under investigation.
China's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lu and Chen are both US citizens who lead a nonprofit organization that lists its mission as providing a social gathering place for people from China's Fujian province, prosecutors said.
Lu in 2018 sought to persuade an individual considered a fugitive by China to return home, prosecutors said. In 2022, he helped open the so-called police station and was asked by China's government to locate an individual living in California who was considered a pro-democracy activist, they added.
Prosecutors said Lu and Chen admitted to the FBI that they deleted their communications with a Chinese government official. The police station closed in the fall of 2022, according to prosecutors.
Monday's charges come after FBI Director Christopher Wray told a US Senate committee in November that he was "very concerned" about the presence of such stations in US cities.
Prosecutors previously charged more than a dozen Chinese nationals and others with waging surveillance and harassment campaigns against dissidents living in the United States, including by trying to forcibly repatriate people whom China considered fugitives.