The FBI wouldn’t say much about the matter.
A Chinese-government police outpost in New York City has closed, the State Department told National Review today. It’s not clear exactly when or under what circumstances the station had shut down, and the FBI wouldn’t comment further on the matter — though State attributed the confirmation to the bureau.
“The FBI has confirmed that the ‘overseas police station’ in New York linked to Fuzhou has closed,” the State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement, in response to an inquiry from NR.
The existence of the outpost was first brought to public attention last year by the nonprofit group Safeguard Defenders. The alleged police station was operated by the public-security bureau of the city of Fuzhou, and it is one of over 100 such stations that have opened across the world, largely in other democracies. While the Chinese government has claimed that these outposts merely support overseas Chinese nationals’ applications for driver’s licenses and perform other administrative functions, Safeguard Defenders has linked some of them to the Chinese government’s international stalking and harassment plots.
Public scrutiny of the station brought with it attention from federal law enforcement and Congress in recent months, though the station’s status had been unclear.
During a November hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, FBI director Christopher Wray described the Chinese government’s decision to open such an outpost as “outrageous.” Wray also alluded to an investigation into the matter and to the fact that “there may be a State Department dimension to this that we’re looking into.” Then, earlier this month, the New York Times reported that FBI counterintelligence officers had raided the facility in Manhattan as part of a criminal investigation run by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, seizing documents from the facility.
When I visited the location where the station was reportedly located, in a building owned by the America ChangLe Association cultural group, on January 19, there were four people in the office suite. One man claimed not to know anything about the FBI raid and the police station, while another man said he does not speak English.
GOP representatives Jim Banks, Mike Waltz, and Mike Gallagher, among others, in letters sent late last year, had asked the State Department, in addition to other agencies, about the stations and the U.S. government’s response. Then, in a January 11 response to the congressional letters, the State Department had revealed that the station had never been invited and visas had never been issued to any individuals to support their participation in the office’s operations. The department revealed the station had closed, in response to questions from NR about this correspondence today — and not in the reply to lawmakers earlier this month.
The State Department spokesperson would not answer further questions about the timing of the station’s closure but also told National Review that “we take this issue very seriously” and that the department is working with U.S. allies and partners to combat Beijing’s transnational repression.
Banks, who led the letters and was the first lawmaker to speak out about the Chinese police stations, criticized the Biden administration in a statement to NR, saying that while he’s glad the station in Manhattan was shuttered, “it shouldn’t fall only to Republican lawmakers to combat malign Chinese influence” and that Chinese Communist Party members affiliated with the station should not have been let into the U.S. in the first place.
Other agencies involved in the matter are keeping silent, at least for now. For its part, the FBI only referred NR to Wray’s Senate testimony, while a Justice Department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Laura Harth of Safeguard Defenders hailed State’s cooperation with other countries on countering Chinese police stations and said the group is grateful for “the ongoing growing efforts to effectively counter the PRC’s long-arm policing operations in the U.S. and elsewhere.” She also told NR that victims of Chinese-government repression should make use of an FBI tip line to “help not only themselves, but help protect potential future victims.”
Gallagher, who is the chairman of a new congressional committee dedicated to focusing on competition with the Chinese Communist Party, said the issue is “not just an issue of transnational coercion; it’s also a question of basic sovereignty.” He added that the committee “will take action to expose this threat and to better defend our nation against the CCP’s transnational repression.”
The status of three additional such Chinese-government police stations identified by Safeguard Defenders — one in New York, one in Los Angeles, and the third at an undetermined location — remains unknown and is likely to become a focus in the coming months. “We need assurances this isn’t happening in other locations in the U.S. and how they will prevent these kinds of operations moving forward,” said Waltz, who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.