FBI Director Christopher Wray told members of the House of Representatives Thursday that the United States is deeply concerned about the Chinese government setting up unauthorized “police stations” in American cities to pursue potential influence operations.
Safeguard Defenders, a European-based human rights organization, published a report in September revealing the presence of dozens of Chinese police “service centers” in major cities around the world, including New York.
Congressional Republicans have demanded answers from the Biden administration about its impact.
The report said the centers are an extension of Beijing’s efforts to pressure some Chinese citizens or their overseas relatives to return to China to face criminal charges. He also linked it to the activities of the United Front Work Department in China, a body of the ruling Communist Party tasked with projecting influence and propaganda abroad.
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“I am very concerned about this. We are aware of the existence of these centers,” Wray told a hearing of the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, but declined to provide details of the FBI’s investigation into the issue.
“But to me, it’s outrageous to think that the Chinese police would try to set up shop in, you know, New York, let’s say, without proper coordination. It violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial cooperation and law enforcement procedures.”
Asked by Republican Senator Rick Scott whether such centers violate US law, Wray said the FBI was “looking into legal standards.”
Republicans in the US House of Representatives, including Greg Murphy and Mike Waltz, sent letters to the Justice Department in October asking whether US President Joe Biden’s administration was investigating such centers and arguing that they could be used to intimidate the Chinese-American population.
China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment, according to Reuters.
Earlier this month, its Foreign Ministry denied the existence of such centers in the Netherlands after an investigation by the Dutch authorities. China said they were offices to help Chinese citizens renew documents.
Ray said the United States has filed a number of indictments, including the Chinese government’s harassment, stalking, surveillance and extortion of people in the United States who do not agree with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The United States disclosed criminal charges in October against seven Chinese nationals accused of waging a campaign of surveillance and harassment against a US resident and his family in an attempt by the Chinese government to return one of them to China.
It was the latest case by the Justice Department targeting China’s efforts to track down people abroad that Beijing designates as criminal suspects, known as Operation Fox Hunting.