(Presidentialwire.com)- An engineering firm, an acupuncturist, and an accounting firm are among the unremarkable firms listed on the lobby directory of the plain, six-story office building on a busy thoroughfare in Chinatown, New York.
On the third level, a more unusual business goes unnoticed: a Chinese outpost that diplomats and intelligence agents worry is one of more than 100 such operations worldwide that conduct police activities without legal authority or diplomatic authorization.
According to persons with knowledge of the investigation, F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators searched the building last autumn as part of a criminal investigation with the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn. The search indicates a worsening global debate over China’s attempts to control its diaspora outside its borders.
Officials from Ireland, Canada, and the Netherlands have demanded that China stop police operations in their nations. The F.B.I. raid is the first known instance in which the government has taken materials from one of the outposts.
The F.B.I. search was discussed by those who agreed to remain anonymous because they were not allowed to do so. On Wednesday, the Chinese Embassy in Washington downplayed the significance of the outposts, claiming that volunteers helped Chinese citizens complete basic activities like renewing their driver’s licenses at home.
However, investigations of Chinese state news media show that police and local Chinese officials are mentioned by name and give significantly different accounts of the operations. The offices, usually called abroad police service centers, are praised for their effectiveness. According to some sources, Chinese outposts “gather intelligence” and investigate crimes abroad without working with regional authorities. It is unclear from the public comments who are in charge of the offices. They are referred to as staff members, volunteers, or, in at least one instance, the director.
Beijing has established police outposts in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, Britain, and Japan. Western officials believe that Beijing is establishing the outposts as part of an effort to monitor Chinese citizens living overseas.
The search coincides with a Justice Department initiative to restrain Fox Hunt and similar groups. Chinese officials reportedly tried to set up training sessions for its officers in cities with sizable populations. Dissident Lin Shengliang in the Netherlands said I am worried. There are no routes for reporting this, and we have no recourse.