U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, who serves as the federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York, confirmed the April 17 arrests of Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping. He added that both Chinese-born suspects were arrested by NYPD officers at their homes, and were charged with conspiring to act as agents of the Chinese government.
According to Peace, Lu and Chen had been operating the secret outpost of the Chinese People's Police (PP) at an entire floor of a building in the heart of New York City's (NYC) Chinatown. He remarked: "Now just imagine the NYPD opening an undeclared secret police station in Beijing. It would be unthinkable." (Related: Secret CCP "police stations" discovered in LA, NYC.)
The U.S. attorney said Lu and Chen "destroyed evidence of their communications" upon learning of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) probe. "These two defendants knew they had something to hide, and they obstructed justice in an attempt to prevent the FBI from learning the full extent of what they were up to."
Peace expounded that the secret Chinese police station provided some government services, such as helping mainland Chinese citizens renew their driver's licenses. However, American law mandates that agents of a foreign government must give prior notice to the state and federal attorneys general before setting up shop – something that did not happen in the case of Lu and Chen.
"More troubling, though, is the fact that the secret police station appears to have had a more sinister use on at least one occasion," the U.S. attorney said. According to him, an official of the Chinese People's Police directed one of the defendants to help locate a pro-democracy activist who was living in California. Peace commented that Chinese law enforcement "had been using the station to track a U.S. resident on U.S. soil."
The U.S. attorney also announced that 34 police officers, part of a task force dubbed the "912 Special Project Working Group," had been charged. The 34 individuals were accused of conspiracy to transmit interstate threats and conspiracy to commit interstate harassment, Peace added.
Contrary to normal police forces, Peace said the 912 task force does not protect people or fight crimes. Instead, it commits crimes against Chinese democracy activists who are located outside of mainland China.
"This task force operates as an internet troll farm creating thousands of fake online personas – which they use in a coordinated plot to harass … and threaten dissidents and activists throughout the world; people [the Chinese government] perceives as threats to the legitimacy of the CCP," he said.
"In addition to threatening and harassing Chinese dissidents, the [912 task force] officers use their fake online personas to spread official Chinese government propaganda and narratives to counter and overwhelm the dissidents' pro-democracy speech."
Peace recounted one instance of the task force doing their dirty work. During an online video conference on the issue of countering communism, "task force officers flooded the video conference and drowned out the meeting with loud music and vulgar screams and threats directed at Chinese dissidents." He continued that with the arrest of the 34 task force members, "the world now has a unique, never-before-seen view of how [Beijing] deployed this army of internet trolls."
The Department of Justice also remarked that the 34 task force members reached out to individuals they assessed to be supportive of the CCP's narratives. They then asked these individuals "on several occasions … to disseminate group content."
Given the arrests of Lu and Chen and the indictment of the 34 members of the 912 task force, Peace decried the Chinese Ministry of Public Security's repeated and flagrant violations of U.S. national sovereignty.
Watch this report from NTD's "China In Focus" about the arrests of Lu and Chen.
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