The United States is deeply concerned that the Chinese government has set up unauthorized “police stations” in American cities to potentially conduct influence operations, FBI Director Christopher Wray said.
“I am very concerned about this. We are aware of the existence of these stations,” Wray told a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, acknowledging the FBI’s investigative work on the matter but declining to give details. .
“But to me it’s outrageous to think that the Chinese police would try to set up shop, you know, in New York, let’s say, without proper coordination. It violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial and law enforcement cooperation processes.”
Wray, when asked by Republican Senator Rick Scott whether such stations violate US law, said the FBI was “examining the legal parameters.”
Safeguard Defenders, a European-based human rights organization, published a report in September revealing the presence of dozens of Chinese police “gas stations” in major cities around the world, including New York.
According to the report, the stations were an extension of Beijing’s efforts to pressure some Chinese nationals or their relatives abroad to return to China to face criminal charges. It also linked them to the activities of China’s United Front Work Department, a body of the Communist Party charged with spreading its influence and propaganda abroad.
Republicans in the US House of Representatives, including Greg Murphy and Mike Waltz, sent letters to the Justice Department in October asking whether President Joe Biden’s administration was investigating such stations, arguing that they could be used to Intimidate US residents of Chinese descent.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied having such stations in the Netherlands after an investigation by Dutch authorities. China said they were offices to help Chinese citizens renew documents.
Wray said the United States had filed a number of charges involving the Chinese government harassing, stalking, monitoring and blackmailing people in the United States who disagreed with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
“It’s a real problem and something we talk to our foreign partners about as well, because we’re not the only country where this has happened,” he said.
The United States opened criminal charges in October against seven Chinese nationals accused of conducting a surveillance and harassment campaign against a US resident and his family in an attempt by the Chinese government to return one of them to to repatriate China.
It was the Justice Department’s latest case against China’s efforts to track down people abroad whom Beijing calls criminal suspects, known as “Operation Fox Hunt.”