‘Extortion’: Ex-spy on how China intimidates dissidents

  • Two men have been charged with running a fake police station in NYC
  • Prosecutors say it was intended to harass Chinese dissidents
  • A former CIA operative explains what those harassment tactics might entail

(NewsNation) — Two New York City residents were charged in connection with operating an illegal police station in the U.S. for the Chinese government, the Department of Justice announced.

Prosecutors said the purpose of the illegal station was to “silence,” harass and spy on those in the U.S. with negative views of the Chinese government.

Michele Rigby Assad, a former CIA operative, explained Monday on “NewsNation: Rush Hour” that harassment often comes in the form of blackmail and extortion.

“Oftentimes they’ll find their family members in China and they’ll say, ‘If you don’t cooperate with us, we’re going to fire them, we’re going to take away their children’s opportunities’ or they might even put them in prison camps or under house arrest,” Assad said. “A lot of people are intimidated, extorted, blackmailed into cooperating with the Chinese government because they’re so concerned with their friends and family back home.”

“Harry” Lu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan were arrested Monday at their homes, according to the Department of Justice.

The police station closed in the fall of 2022 after the people operating it became aware of the FBI’s investigation, a news release states.

Also announced by the Department of Justice Monday were charges for 34 officers from China’s Ministry of Public Security, who were accused of using fake social media accounts to intimidate Chinese dissidents living in the U.S. and disseminate “official PRG government propaganda and narratives” to counter pro-democracy speech. 

All defendants, according to a news release, are believed to live in China. They remain at large. 

Assad called the charges a “huge deal” because of the relative impunity with which China and its network of other fake police stations has been able to operate.

“They have been active within the borders of our country, from New York to California to Florida,” Assad said. “The Chinese have been very good at taking advantage of our democracy and our very open society … and so, I think that’s a big reason why we haven’t noticed a lot that’s been going on right in front of us.”

Assad expects that China will engage in “saber rattling” in response to the charges, which she said the United States should ignore.

“We just need to stand strong and say, ‘This is not OK, we’re going to investigate and prosecute,'” she said.

NewsNation reporters Sloane Glass and Cassie Buchman contributed to this report.


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