Lu Jianwang, who was arrested this week in New York, took part in pro-China demonstrations.
By Jane Tang and Tara McKelvey for RFA
April 19, 2023
In this March, 30, 2023, photo [left], Lu Jianwang [center] protests against Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to New York. At right, Lu Jianwang and a Chinese Ministry of Public Security official hold a sign reading “Fuzhou Public Security Bureau, Overseas 110 Report to Police Service Station.” The number 110 is the equivalent in China of 911 in the United States. Credit: World Journal/ WenHsin Chang [left]; U.S. Dept. of Justice [right]
When Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen visited New York in March, a group of residents of the city who favor China’s reunification rallied outside the Lotte New York Palace where she was staying, holding up signs calling her a traitor and chanting slogans denigrating the idea of Taiwan’s independence.
Among the group of demonstrators was a man with a high forehead, straight black hair and a blue jacket who was holding both Chinese and American flags.
That man, Lu Jianwang, 61, is one of two people arrested this week and charged by the U.S. government as helping to run an unauthorized overseas Chinese police station in New York.
An acquaintance who knows Lu from the Chinatown community in Manhattan said he spoke in the past about being feted by officials back in his hometown in Fujian province in southeastern China.
“He often talks about how he was treated with great food and red carpet when returning to his hometown,” said the person, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid being harassed for speaking out.
President’s Tsai’s visit to New York last month saw competing rallies with Taiwanese pro-democrats shouting support for Tsai while pro-Beijingers vented outrage that she was able to visit the United States – which Beijing views as a tacit form of diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. China regards the self-governing island as a renegade province.
In one photo, Lu can be seen among a huddle of protesters. One holds a placard reading: “Tsai Ing-wen is a Big Traitor of China.”
In New York, Lu served as president of the America ChengLe Association New York, a Fujianese community group named for Lu’s hometown, from 2012-2018. The association owns the building on East Broadway where the alleged Chinese police station was located, according to the New York Post.
That station was allegedly set up by the Fuzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau early last year and later closed in October as FBI agents investigated its activities.
'Relationship of trust'
The bureau is a branch of the Ministry of Public Security, or MPS, which the U.S. and other countries allege is behind efforts to target Chinese exiles who criticize the government.
The charging document includes a picture of Lu with a person identified as an MPS official and a sign in Mandarin that reads, “Fuzhou Public Security Bureau, Overseas 110 Report to Police Service Station.”
Lu, 61, was allegedly asked to confirm that a Chinese dissident and democracy advocate was living at a California address, among other tasks.
According to the charges, Lu had a “longstanding relationship of trust” with China’s government, including with officials in the MPS.
Lu also told FBI agents that he had been given a plaque in 2015 for his work helping to organize counter protests to an anticipated demonstration against Chinese leader Xi Jinping during his visit to Washington, D.C.
The charging document also includes a picture of Lu receiving the plaque from what it says was the then deputy director of the MPS.
Embassy denies allegations
Lu and the other man who allegedly ran the station with him, Chen Jinping, 59, declined to be interviewed when contacted by phone.
“I am busy with some matters here at the court,” Chen told RFA. Efforts to reach their lawyers were not successful.
A spokesperson for the Chinese government has denied the accusations about the police stations and said U.S. media accounts have mischaracterized them.
“The Chinese government strictly abides by international law, and fully respects the law enforcement sovereignty of other countries,” said Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu in a statement to RFA. “There is no breaching of laws or regulations.”
But U.S. prosecutors allege that the station operated by Lu and Chen was part of a global campaign by the Chinese government to intimidate and harass people who speak out against Beijing and its authoritarian policies.
U.S. officials say MPS officials pressure former citizens to return to China to face corruption charges. The people targeted are often critics of the government.
Lu and Chen have been charged by Justice Department prosecutors with obstructing justice and conspiring to act as a Chinese government agent without registering as such with the U.S. government.
If convicted of the crimes, Lu and Chen could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Lu and Chen are currently out on bail, according to John Marzulli, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office. He said prosecutors are collecting additional evidence that can be presented to a grand jury.