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Corruption Chronicles

FBI Stonewalls JW on Legit Public Record Request Involving Chinese Police Station in NY

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) misled and stonewalled Judicial Watch on a legitimate public record request involving an illegal Chinese police station opened in New York by agents of China’s communist government. The outpost is the first in the United States operated on behalf of the Fuzhou branch of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and was surreptitiously established in an office building in Manhattan’s Chinatown to intimidate Chinese dissidents living in this country.

Back in October 2022 Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FBI for records concerning the foreign police station which was operated by two Chinese men who live in New York, federal authorities recently confirmed. The men, 61-year-old Harry Lu Jianwang of the Bronx and 59-year-old Chen Jinping of Manhattan, were arrested this week and charged with conspiring to act as agents of the PRC government as well as obstructing justice by destroying evidence of their communications with an MPS official. “The PRC, through its repressive security apparatus, established a secret physical presence in New York City to monitor and intimidate dissidents and those critical of its government,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. An assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division also said this week that the case serves as a powerful reminder that China will stop at nothing to bend people to its will.

It was not the FBI’s first public acknowledgement of the illicit Chinese police station in the Big Apple. In mid-November of last year FBI Director Christopher Wray told a congressional committee that his agency was investigating an unauthorized police station run by China in New York as part of a chain in major cities around the world. A Spanish-based human rights group had just disclosed that China has dozens of overseas police service stations globally and lawmakers asked Wray about it during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing. The FBI director affirmed he was aware of the existence of the stations and that it is outrageous to think the Chinese police would attempt to set up shop in New York. He also said the Chinese station “violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial and law enforcement cooperation processes.”

The FBI has since recognized that it conducted a search of New York’s Chinese police station in October 2022 and that agents interviewed the defendants and seized their phones. “In reviewing the contents of these phones, FBI agents observed that communications between Lu and Chen, on the one hand, and the MPS Official, on the other, appeared to have been deleted,” according to a statement issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ). “In subsequent consensual interviews, Lu and Chen admitted to the FBI that they had deleted their communications with the MPS Official after learning about the ongoing FBI investigation, thus preventing the FBI from learning the full extent of the MPS’s directions for the overseas police station.” The feds knew that Lu had a longstanding relationship of trust with Chinese law enforcement and that he was tasked with carrying various activities including to assist the PRC government’s repressive activities in the U.S.

Nevertheless, the FBI wrongfully rejected Judicial Watch’s detailed public record request, denying the existence of any information involving the Chinese police station in Manhattan. In a November 18, 2022 response to Judicial Watch’s October filing the agency outright claims it has no records. “Based on the information you provided, we conducted a main and reference entity record search of the Central Records System (CRS) per our standard search policy,” the FBI writes in its response. “However, we were unable to identify records subject to the FOIPA that are responsive to your request. Therefore, your request is being closed.” The document is signed by Michael G. Seidel, who is identified as the section chief of the Record/Information Dissemination Section of the Information Management Division.

Like most government agencies the FBI is rarely forthcoming with records, which forces Judicial Watch to sue in federal court for information that should be available to the public under the law. The FBI even took advantage of the pandemic, using it as an excuse to withhold information by shutting down its electronic public records operations during a time when mandatory social distancing forced Americans and federal government employees to telework.


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