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National security officials, federal prosecutors, and lawmakers are on the lookout for secret police stations that they believe China has established on U.S. soil.
In September, a report by Safeguard Defenders alleged agents of the Chinese regime had been covertly operating in several countries, using secret police stations as a base of operations to surveil Chinese dissidents and even coercing Chinese expatriates to return to China. The Safeguard Defender report alleged one such secret Chinese police station was operating in New York City.
On April 17, FBI agents arrested two men on charges that they helped operate the alleged Chinese secret police station in New York City.
The Safeguard Defenders report and subsequent FBI arrests have put U.S. officials on the lookout for additional Chinese surveillance bases. Rep. Mike Flood (R-Neb.) now warns that one such station is operating near his district.
“They call it a Chinese service center. It’s located in Omaha, Nebraska,” Flood said in an interview with NTD News on Tuesday.
To some, middle America might seem like an unlikely point of interest for Chinese surveillance operations, but Flood noted that the alleged Chinese service center is not far from Offutt Air Force Base, which serves as the headquarters of the U.S. Strategic Command—the command overseeing U.S. nuclear bombers and both land and sea-based nuclear missiles.
“We’re a strategic headquarters […] and to have one of these Chinese service centers in our backyard in Omaha, Nebraska, tells you how aggressive and omnipresent the Chinese want to be in every community in America,” Flood said. “And it’s startling. It concerns a lot of Nebraskans. It should concern everybody in America that they’re penetrating that far into the middle of our country.”
Flood said he has reached out to the FBI in hopes of gaining more information about how this Chinese service station in Omaha has been operating.
“I haven’t had that briefing yet, but I’m really looking forward to learning about what they’ve been doing in Nebraska and across the nation,” he said.
The two men arrested in connection with the alleged secret Chinese police station in New York—Lu Jinawang and Chen Jinping—are both U.S. citizens. The two men worked for an organization that presented itself as an overseas service station, providing citizen services like driver’s license renewals for Chinese citizens living abroad.
“At the very least, the station was providing some government services like helping Chinese citizens renew their Chinese driver’s licenses,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said during an April 17 press conference announcing the arrests. “But to do even that, the law requires that individuals like the defendants who act as agents of a foreign government give prior notice to the attorney general before setting up shop in New York City. That didn’t happen.”
Flood Warns of Broader Chinese Surveillance Campaign
Flood said these covert Chinese police stations are just one component of a broader Chinese campaign to surveil and influence the United States.
U.S. officials believe the Chinese high-altitude balloon that transited the United States earlier this year was another component of this surveillance effort, gathering data from over the United States and relaying it back to China.
In recent years, lawmakers and national security officials have also drawn attention to the Confucius Institute—a Chinese cultural program that has paired with universities in the United States. While the Confucius Institute ostensibly operates as a cultural exchange program, critics have alleged (pdf) that Confucius Institute centers have been used to monitor Chinese students studying abroad and spread propaganda on behalf of the Chinese regime.
Lawmakers and U.S. officials have also been wary of Chinese telecommunications firms, such as Huawei, operating in the United States.
“They’re taking advantage of our open system in America, and what they’re doing is systemic, and it’s a problem,” Flood said. “It’s not just spy balloons. It’s not just the Huawei equipment that they’re using to spy on Americans and get data. It’s the fact that they’re buying up real estate around Air Force bases like Minot, North Dakota, and they are working in every way they can to undermine the legitimacy of our country and to, you know, achieve their goal of being the world’s sole superpower.”
From NTD News