FBI director is ‘very concerned’ about secret unauthorized Chinese ‘police stations’ in major cities including New York where overseas dissidents are ‘hunted and persuaded to return’
- FBI Director Christopher Wray slammed China’s secret overseas police stations
- He told Congress the program is an ‘outrageous’ violation of sovereignty
- Communist nation was operating a makeshift police station in lower Manhattan
- China says it lets ‘overseas Chinese feel care and love from the motherland’
- FBI said such stations have been linked to extra-judicial repatriation squads
- Overseas dissidents have been tracked and ‘persuaded’ to return to China
- China boasts 230,000 ‘fugitives’ have returned due to its ‘Operation Fox Hunt’
The FBI is deeply concerned about the Chinese government setting up unauthorized ‘police stations’ in US cities to possibly track and harass dissidents living abroad, Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers on Thursday.
‘I’m very concerned about this. We are aware of the existence of these stations,’ Wray told a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.
Wray declined to detail the FBI’s investigative steps on the issue, adding: ‘But to me, it is outrageous to think that the Chinese police would attempt to set up shop, you know, in New York, let’s say, without proper coordination.
‘It violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial and law enforcement cooperation processes,’ he added.
The existence of the so-called police stations, including one in a nondescript building above a ramen shop in Manhattan, was revealed in a September report from Safeguard Defenders, a Europe-based human rights organization.
DailyMail.com visited the Manhattan station on East Broadway last month but it was closed.
The outpost is next to an acupuncturist, where a receptionist was surprised to hear it was a secret police station.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers on Thursday he is deeply concerned about the Chinese government setting up unauthorized ‘police stations’ in US cities
A Chinese ‘police station’ operated by the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau opened on this block in lower Manhattan in February. The neighborhood is known as Little Fuzhou
According to Chinese-language media reports, the Manhattan station opened on February 15 as a branch of the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau, to ‘let overseas Chinese feel the care and love from the motherland.’
Fuzhou is the capital of southeastern China’s Fujian province. The neighborhood the New York station is located in is known as Little Fuzhou, an ethnic enclave within the larger Chinatown, with many immigrants from the region.
Like many of its police stations around the world, the New York site is promoted as a place to assist Chinese nationals with services such as driver’s license tests.
But Safeguard Defenders raised concerns that the network of overseas stations has been used to monitor and harass dissidents who fled China, and to pressure them to return to their homeland.
The report described cases in which Chinese expatriates were put on video calls with officials in China, as well as their own family members, and warned of consequences for their family remaining in China if they failed to return.
It is part of a sweeping program known in Beijing as ‘Operation Fox Hunt’ involving extra-judicial repatriation squads that clandestinely attempt to force expatriates to return to China.
Many of the stations are open in Western Europe, with only four in North America
Pictured: Chinese officials operating inside their police station in New York City. It is one of at least 54 active around the world, and the only known to be operating in the US
In the summer of 2022, Chinese official statements claimed some 230,000 alleged ‘fugitives’ had been ‘persuaded to return’ between April 2021 and July 2022.
The report also linked the stations to activities of China’s United Front Work Department, a Communist Party body charged with spreading its influence and propaganda overseas.
Republicans in Congress have requested answers from the Biden administration about the covert police stations and their influence.
Wray, asked by Republican Senator Rick Scott if such stations violated U.S. law, said the FBI was ‘looking into the legal parameters.’
The FBI director acknowledged but declined to detail the FBI’s investigative work on the issue.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Greg Murphy and Mike Waltz, sent letters to the Justice Department in October asking if President Joe Biden’s administration was investigating such stations and arguing they could be used to intimidate U.S. residents of Chinese origin.
China’s embassy in Washington did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Quanzhong An, 55, and his daughter Guangyang An, 34, were charged last month in a surveillance and harassment campaign against a Chinese national living in the US, as part of a forced repatriation campaign against him
Earlier this month, its foreign ministry denied it had such stations in the Netherlands after a probe by Dutch authorities.
China said they were offices to help Chinese citizens renew documents.
Wray said the United States had made a number of indictments involving the Chinese government harassing, stalking, surveilling, and blackmailing people in the United States who disagreed with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
‘It’s a real problem and something that we’re talking with our foreign partners about, as well, because we’re not the only country where this has occurred,’ he said.
An Quanzhong, 55, is a Chinese-American businessman charged in an illegal rendition scheme
The United States unsealed criminal charges in October against seven Chinese nationals accused of waging a harassment campaign against a US resident and his family in a bid by the Chinese government to repatriate one of them back to China.
The seven suspects allegedly surveilled and harassed the family of an ‘elite’ overseas Chinese national they called John Doe-1 as part of a forced repatriation campaign against him.
Two of those charged – lead defendant, Quanzhong An, 55, and his daughter Guangyang An, 34, – were arrested, while the other five accused remain at large.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin condemned the indictment, saying Beijing was engaged in ‘fighting crimes, repatriating fugitives and recovering illegal proceeds’ and this is supported by the international community.
‘By making those allegations, the US is denying basic facts and discrediting China’s law enforcement efforts,’ Wang said Friday. ‘We firmly oppose it.’
It was the latest case by the Justice Department targeting China’s effort to track down people overseas who Beijing calls criminal suspects, known as ‘Operation Fox Hunt.’