Chinese Covert Influence Operations in the US – Deep and Far Reaching

Recent arrests and charges brought against individuals operating a secret Chinese police station in New York City have shed light on a larger network of influence operations carried out by Beijing within the United States. The significance of this issue cannot be understated, as it demands a heightened level of awareness, sensitivity, and action from the American authorities. This article delves into the details of the Chinese police station in NYC, its connection to the broader Chinese influence network, and the urgent need for the United States to address this growing threat.

A Secret Chinese Police Station in New York City

The Chinese government-controlled police outpost, which was discovered and raided by the FBI in October, was found to be orchestrating widespread harassment of U.S.-based critics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This operation, although the first of its kind in the United States, is just one piece of a larger puzzle. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security has established over 100 illegal police stations worldwide, making it clear that these activities extend far beyond U.S. borders.

According to the charging documents, the two defendants arrested in connection with the secret police station have been acting as Chinese government agents since 2015, engaging in various activities such as staging protests against Chinese religious minorities, pressuring alleged fugitives to return to China, and tracking down pro-democracy activists. While the criminal complaint provides insight into the operations of this particular police station, it fails to explain its role within the broader Chinese influence operations.

The location of the police station, which was rented by the America Changle Association, offers a clue to its purpose. The association, a charity claiming to assist Chinese and Chinese Americans, had its tax-exempt status revoked due to its failure to file necessary paperwork. Yet, the association managed to attract prominent New York politicians to its events, including Mayor Eric Adams. Safeguard Defenders, an investigative group tracking China’s transnational repression, has revealed that local associations like Changle often collaborate with Chinese authorities to establish police outposts and suppress criticism of the CCP. These associations are part of the larger CCP influence network known as the United Front.

The United Front, with its roots dating back to Mao Zedong’s era, encompasses Chinese Communist Party agencies aiming to co-opt and influence various groups and figures both inside and outside of China. This network particularly targets religious, ethnic minority, and diaspora communities. Australian researcher Alex Joske highlights the United Front’s significance, stating, “The United Front system is one of the Chinese Communist Party’s magic weapons.” These operations often rely on local proxy organizations that provide services to overseas Chinese communities or support Beijing’s preferred policies, such as Taiwan’s reunification.

Bipartisan Efforts and the Defense of Human Rights

Efforts to combat Chinese influence operations and transnational repression have gained bipartisan support. The House’s Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, led by Chairman Mike Gallagher, has emphasized the importance of standing against Chinese influence and human rights abuses in a unified manner. During a rally outside the illegal Chinese police station, Congressman Ritchie Torres asserted that the defense of human rights transcends party lines, emphasizing its status as an American value. Chinese dissidents and activists also expressed gratitude for feeling heard and supported for the first time.

Chinese influence operations, including those conducted through the United Front, are intentionally opaque and complex, often leading to accusations of prejudice against those who seek to expose their negative effects. However, it is crucial to confront these operations to protect U.S. sovereignty and safeguard vulnerable individuals from persecution. The United States must uphold its identity as an open and tolerant society while countering the expanding influence of the CCP.

The recent uncovering of a secret Chinese police station in New York City highlights the extent of China’s influence operations within the United States. This case is just one piece of a larger network of illegal police stations established by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security worldwide. Understanding the role of local associations, such as the America Changle Association, and the broader United Front network is key to comprehending the scope and objectives of these influence operations. Bipartisan efforts and a commitment to defending human rights are crucial in countering the CCP’s influence. The United States must address this issue with urgency to safeguard its sovereignty and preserve its values as an open and tolerant society.