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The arrest of two people in New York for allegedly attempting to set up secret Chinese police stations has shined renewed light on the mysterious overseas service stations that critics say are used to spy on Chinese citizens abroad.
China has opened dozens of “overseas police service stations” around the world, with such outposts reported in multiple locations in Europe and North America, that it claims are used to help Chinese nationals living abroad obtain services such as renewing drivers licenses. But a report by Safeguard Defenders, a human rights watchdog, released last year, casts doubt on the claims of the Chinese government, arguing the centers are used to police Chinese citizens overseas as part of a crackdown on criticism of the ruling communist party.
“These operations eschew official bilateral police and judicial cooperation and violate the international rule of law, and may violate the territorial integrity in third countries involved in setting up a parallel policing mechanism using illegal methods,” reads the report by Safeguard Defenders, which was released in September.
2 NY RESIDENTS ALLEGEDLY RAN SECRET CHINESE POLICE STATION: ‘SIGNIFICANT NATIONAL SECURITY MATTER’
Two New York residents were arrested by FBI for allegedly running an undisclosed Chinese government police station in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. (U.S. District Court: Eastern District of New York)
Speaking to The Associated Press Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said there was “no such thing as an overseas police station,” arguing that classifying the centers as such was part of a U.S. campaign of “smears and political manipulation.”
But according to the Safeguard Defenders report, many of the services the Chinese government claims are being carried out by the centers are jobs traditionally left to overseas embassies. Instead, the report claims the Chinese have used the centers as a way to enhance their overseas law enforcement capabilities in potential violation of international law.
Safeguard Defenders points to multiple human rights abuses carried about by the centers, including harassing and intimidating Chinese nationals living abroad with tactics such as threatening the family members of the overseas citizens. The report also claims that the centers have been used to monitor the activities of Chinese citizens overseas and to spread communist party propaganda.
Two New York residents were arrested by FBI for allegedly running an undisclosed Chinese government police station in Manhattans Chinatown neighborhood. (U.S. District Court: Eastern District of New York)
CHINA HAS OPENED OVERSEAS POLICE STATIONS IN US AND CANADA TO MONITOR CHINESE CITIZENS: REPORT
“As these operations continue to develop, and new mechanisms are set up, it is evident that countries governed by the standards set by universal human rights and the rule of law urgently need to investigate these practices to identify the (local) actors at work, mitigate the risks and effectively protect the growing number of those targeted,” the report concluded.
Europe hosts most of the police stations, according to the report, with locations in London, Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest, Athens, Paris, Madrid and Frankfurt. North America is home to at least four of the centers, including three locations in Toronto and one in New York City.
New York prosecutors says the center there was operated by the Fuzhou branch of the Ministry of Public Security; which had no authority to operate in the city and that the centers are a violation of U.S. law and national sovereignty.
The arrested men, identified as “Harry” Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan, are both U.S. citizens. According to prosecutors, the arrests in connection with the centers are the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
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Authorities also announced charges against 34 other individuals Monday that they claim belonged to a group of Chinese police officers named “912 Special Project Working Group.”
Some of the Chinese government police officers, who are currently at large, who are facing charges of conspiracy to transmit interstate threats and conspiracy to commit interstate harassment. (U.S. District Court: Eastern District of New York)
Members of the group are accused of conspiracy to transmit interstate threats and conspiracy to commit interstate harassment.
“Thanks to our investigation and arrest today with the FBI, the defendants will be held accountable,” said Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.. “And the MPS is on notice that we will not tolerate similar threats to our national sovereignty.”
Michael Lee is a writer at Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee