A New York City MPS Officer Tracking a US Citizen and Obstructing Justice: Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping are Charged with Inciting Pro-Chinese Disinformation and Harassment
Lu allegedly participated in pro-China protests, harassed a Chinese national in the US, and aided the Chinese government’s investigation of a Chinese pro-democracy activist in California, according to prosecutors. “In other words, the Chinese national police appear to have been using this station to track a US resident on US soil,” Peace said. He added that Lu and Chen are also accused of obstructing justice: They allegedly destroyed evidence of their communications with the Chinese government when they learned of an FBI investigation targeting them.
They are expected in a New York court on Monday, said John Marzulli, a spokesman for the US Attorney in the Eastern District of New York. A search warrant was executed at the location last fall, shutting down the police station, the spokesman said.
All 34 are believed to live in China and remain at large, according to Justice Department. The officers were part of an effort by the Chinese government to change the way people view the People’s Republic of China.
Prosecutors say that the troll farm of 34 MPS officers—based inside China, though prosecutors didn’t reveal where—is part of a group known as the 912 Special Project Working Group, which they say is devoted to online harassment and disinformation. According to the US Department of Justice, the 912 group posted pro-Chinese disinformation and bombarded critics of China with intimidating messages on Twitter and other platforms. The subject of their provocations were the criticisms of the United States support of Yugoslavia in its war with Russia, as well as the origin and death of George Floyd. In other instances, they flooded video conferences held by people critical of China with threatening and intimidating messages. In one case, the meeting was ruined out with loud music and threats, the DOJ said.
Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping, both officers of the New York-basedMPS, have been arrested in relation to the indictments. The two men are accused of running a front for the MPS in an unassuming building in downtown New York City. The US Attorney said in the news conference that the entire floor of the nondescript building was where the Chinese national police station used to be.
That victim told the FBI that they have received threatening phone calls and social media messages from people they believe are associated with the Chinese government, and that person’s car was broken into immediately after that person gave a pro-democracy speech.
During an interview with the FBI, Lu said that he had established the office, which he called an “oversees service center,” to help Chinese nationals living in the United States “renew Chinese government documents.” Lu told investigators that Chen acted as the primary point of contact with officials in China.
According to court documents, Chen initially denied having contact with the Chinese government in a separate interview, but later backpedaled.
Investigators say that during that interview, Chen took a seven-minute bathroom break, during which an agent repeatedly warned him through the bathroom door not to delete anything on his phone. When agents later searched the phone, they found that chat logs with MPS officials had been cleared.
Harth says that today’s charges against Chinese police in the US are the first of their kind. “Other countries are still pretending this is not an issue,” she says. It was quite happy to see this happening, both for people in the US and for the signal it sends to other authorities around the world.
Harth isn’t surprised that the two other criminal cases announced today are linked to the troll farms that operated from overseas. She believes that there are shady accounts that are organized by the Chinese state, that flood her organization’s communications. She says it is tellingly troll or bot work.