The US is deeply concerned about the Chinese government setting up unauthorized “police stations” in US cities to possibly pursue influence operations, FBI Director Christopher Wray told US lawmakers on Thursday.
European human rights organization Safeguard Defenders in September published a report revealing the presence of dozens of Chinese police “service stations” in major cities around the world, including New York.
Republicans in the US Congress have requested answers from the administration of US President Joe Biden about their influence.
The report said the stations were an extension of Beijing’s efforts to pressure some Chinese nationals or their relatives abroad to return to China to face criminal charges. It also linked them to activities of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s United Front Work Department, a body charged with spreading its influence and propaganda overseas.
“I’m very concerned about this. We are aware of the existence of these stations,” Wray told a US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, acknowledging but declining to detail the FBI’s investigative work on the issue.
“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 said
Asked by US Senator Rick Scott if such stations breached US law, Wray said the FBI was “looking into the legal parameters.”
Republicans in the US House of Representatives, including US representatives Greg Murphy and Mike Waltz, last month sent letters to the US Department of Justice asking if the Biden administration was investigating such stations.
The facilities could be used to intimidate US residents of Chinese origin, the letters said.
Such stations have also been a widely reported concern in Canada and other parts of the world.
Earlier this month, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs 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 Washington had made a number of indictments involving the Chinese government harassing, stalking, surveilling and blackmailing people in the US who disagreed with policies implemented by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
“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,” Wray said.
The US last month unsealed criminal charges against seven Chinese nationals accused of waging a surveillance and harassment campaign against a US resident and his family in a bid by the Chinese government to repatriate one of them back to China.
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.”
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