Two men were arrested Monday on charges that they helped establish a secret police station in New York City on behalf of the Chinese government, and about three dozen officers with China’s national police force were charged with using social media to harass dissidents inside the United States, authorities said Monday.
The cases are part of a series of Justice Department prosecutions in recent years aimed at disrupting Chinese government efforts to locate in America pro-democracy activists and others who are openly critical of Beijing’s policies and to suppress their speech.
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“New York City is home to New York’s finest: the NYPD,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, whose office brought the cases. “We don’t need or want a secret police station in our great city.”
Justice Department officials in recent years have prioritized prosecutions of what’s known as “transnational repression,” in which foreign governments work to identify, intimidate and silence dissidents in the U.S.
A signature case concerning China was announced in 2020, when the Justice Department charged more than a half-dozen people with working on behalf of the Chinese government in a pressure campaign aimed at coercing a New Jersey man wanted by Beijing into returning to China to face charges. In January, the Justice Department charged three men in an alleged plot that originated in Iran to kill an Iranian American author and activist who has spoken out against human rights abuses there.
“In America, the law protects all of us equally from persecution, violence and threats of violence,” said David Newman, a top official in the Justice Department’s national security division.
“As authoritarian governments — whether the PRC, Russia, Iran, or others — become more brazen in their efforts to trample the rights and liberties that are the bedrock of our democracy, the Department of Justice will redouble its efforts to defend our democracy, our democratic institutions, and our sovereignty,” Newman said, using an acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
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In a separate scheme announced Monday, the Justice Department charged 34 officers in the Ministry of Public Security with creating and using thousands of fake social media accounts on Twitter and other platforms to harass dissidents abroad.
Prosecutors say the defendants, all part of a specialized task force that worked out of a police facility in Beijing, also used social media to spread Chinese government propaganda on subjects including racial justice protests in the U.S., Russia’s war against Ukraine and human rights issues in Hong Kong. All of the defendants remain at large and are believed to be living in China.
In addition, prosecutors on Monday announced that eight Chinese government officials who are believed to be currently living in China were charged with directing an employee of a U.S. telecommunications company to remove Chinese dissidents from the company’s platform.
Jin Xinjiang, also known as Julien Jin, a former China-based Zoom executive, was among 10 people charged in an amended complaint. He was initially charged in December 2020, when authorities alleged that he tried to disrupt a series of Zoom meetings in May and June of that year that were meant to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.
At the time, Jin served as Zoom’s primary liaison with Chinese government law enforcement and intelligence services, regularly responding to requests by the Chinese government to terminate meetings and block users on Zoom’s video communications platform, authorities said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.