(New York) Two men were arrested early Monday on federal charges accusing them of conspiring to act as agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in connection with a police station in the Manhattan’s Chinatown, authorities said at a news conference.

The outpost, which court documents say was manned by Chinese security agents, is one of about 100 Chinese police operations around the world that have raised concern among diplomats and intelligence officials. . This is the first time that criminal charges have been brought in connection with such a police station, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The charges against Lu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, stem from an investigation by the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn into the Chinatown outpost, which led police operations without jurisdiction or diplomatic approval.

“Today’s charges are a clear response to the PRC: We are on your trail, we know what you are doing, and we will prevent it from happening in the territory of the United States of America,” said Breon S Peace, United States Attorney in Brooklyn, announcing the charges along with other officials.

Last fall, FBI counterintelligence agents raided the offices of the branch, located on the third floor of an unnamed building at 107 E. Broadway, marking an escalation in the global conflict over China’s efforts to monitor its diaspora far beyond its borders.

Canadian, Irish and Dutch officials have called on China to halt similar operations in their countries. The FBI raid in New York is the first known instance of material being seized by authorities at one of the outposts.

It could not immediately be determined whether the men had lawyers. Mr. Lu, also known as Harry Lu, lives in the Bronx and has a residence in China. Mr. Chen lives in Manhattan. Both are US citizens.

In 2018 filings with the IRS, Mr. Lu was listed as the president of a nonprofit organization called America Changle Association NY, whose offices housed the police station. A criminal complaint unsealed on Monday says the group was formed in 2013 and lists its charitable mission as a “social gathering place” for people from the Chinese city of Fuzhou. The complaint states that Mr. Lu is the general counsel of the association and Mr. Chen, its general secretary.

The pair were charged with obstruction of justice and accused of destroying text messages between them and their handler at the Chinese Ministry of Public Security in October 2022, around the time of the FBI raid, as well as of conspiring to act as agents of the People’s Republic of China without registering with the Ministry of Justice, as required by law.

The charges were announced later Monday at a press conference in Brooklyn by Mr. Peace, FBI Deputy Director who heads the New York office, Michael Driscoll, and the Department of Justice’s top national security official. Justice in Washington, David Newman.

The complaint accuses the two men of aiding the Chinese government. Since 2015, according to the charges, Mr. Lu has participated in counter-protests in Washington against members of Falun Gong, a religion banned by Chinese law.

When news of the search in Lower Manhattan was first reported in January, the Chinese Embassy in Washington downplayed the role of the outposts, saying they were manned by volunteers helping nationals Chinese to perform routine tasks such as renewing their driver’s license in their home country.

But The New York Times reviewed Chinese state media reports in which police and local Chinese officials described the operations very differently.

Officials, named by name, praise the efficiency of the offices, often referred to as “overseas policing centers.” In some reports, the outposts are described as “intelligence gathering” and solving crimes overseas without the involvement of local officials.

These public statements cast doubt on the identity of those responsible for these offices. In some cases they are described as being run by volunteers, in others by staff members.