One unassuming building on the 100 block of East Broadway Street in New York City’s Chinatown neighborhood allegedly operated an overseas police station for the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
“We were outraged,” said activist Zhou Fengsuo, the executive director of Human Rights in China and New York native. “Of course, we want this kind of organization to be rooted out of the United States.”
Zhou says one floor of the commercial building was being used to surveil, intimidate and harass Chinese citizens.
“One of the people who was monitored by [the people operating the illegal precinct] was a friend of mine,” he said.
Two New York men were arrested last week on charges of opening the police outpost in early 2022 to collect information on opponents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). According to the Department of Justice, Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping were charged with conspiring to act as agents of the PRC government and obstructing justice. Law enforcement say the two were caught destroying evidence.
“Many freedom-loving Chinese [people] were terrorized by such police stations and people who work for CCP directly and indirectly,” said Zhou. “So now I think it is important for the Chinese diaspora community to mobilize and to show solidarity,”
Zhou is a former leader of the students who took part in the pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989, known as the Tiananmen Square protests. He moved to the United States in 1995 and continued his activism work abroad.
“I have been beaten by similar organizations in the name of Hometown Association back in 2008 in San Francisco, [California],” said Zhou. “This is the long arm of CCP’s terrorist regime here. They want to plant fear in the Chinese diaspora community.”
He connected with Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, Wis., who chairs the new House Select Committee on China with the hope that he could have a bigger bullhorn to sound the alarm about China’s transnational repression efforts. In February, the two met again in Manhattan to celebrate the closure of the illegal police outpost and warn of the potential spread of more covert operations worldwide.
“The nonprofit Safeguard Defenders discovered over 100 of these illegal police stations around the world, including at least two more on United States soil,” Rep. Gallagher said during the rally.
The Justice Department said the two men charged with operating this police station were directed by a Chinese government official. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China denied the allegations.
“The law enforcement officers have done a great job in investigating their wrongdoings,” said Zhou. “But this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Gallagher agrees, vowing to use the new committee to keep the pressure on Beijing.
“The CCP’s mafia tactics surveillance, harassment, blackmail, assault and the persecution of elderly parents and spouses and children back in china simply cannot be tolerated in America,” Gallagher said.
Zhou hopes Congress’ heightened sights on the Chinese government will prevent spying eyes from targeting folks in the neighborhood again.