On Monday, US law enforcement arrested two US citizens, identified as Harry Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping, for establishing a secret police station in New York under the direction of an official in China. The two men allegedly offered basic services to Chinese citizens, such as helping them renew their Chinese driver’s licenses. However, the station also undertook roles beyond ordinary bureaucracy, including locating Chinese dissidents living in the US. In response, China denied all accusations of an overseas police presence, calling the claims groundless accusations.
“The relevant claims have no factual basis, and there is no such thing as an overseas police station,” spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, said on Tuesday.
The US Justice Department also charged 34 officers in the Ministry of Public Security with creating and using thousands of fake social media accounts on Twitter and other platforms to harass dissidents abroad.
While China has denied all accusations of an overseas police presence, the country has shown that it is willing to target its own citizens even after they have left China for various reasons, whether political or economic. In recent years, Beijing has been running two separate campaigns to bring suspects wanted mostly for economic crimes back to China as part of an anti-corruption drive. It has also begun flexing its muscles abroad to bring people back home, whether through the use of extradition treaties or unofficial methods, such as putting coercive pressure on relatives back home in China.
“China firmly opposes the smear and political manipulation by the US, who maliciously fabricated the narrative of so-called cross-border suppression and blatantly prosecuted Chinese law enforcement officials,” Wang said.
The arrests come at a time of heightened tensions between China and the US. The two countries have been locked in a trade war, with both sides imposing tariffs on each other’s goods. The US has also accused China of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, where China is alleged to have detained over one million Uyghur Muslims in internment camps. China denies the accusations and says the camps are vocational training centers.
The US has been increasingly critical of China’s actions in Hong Kong as well. In 2020, China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong, which critics say curtails the city’s autonomy and freedoms. The US has sanctioned Chinese officials in response to the law and has also ended the special status that Hong Kong enjoyed under US law.