Republican senators have requested the Justice Department and FBI provide information about seven newly-identified Chinese Communist Party (CCP) outposts operating on U.S. soil.
The outposts, called Overseas Chinese Service Centers (OCSC), are run by the CCP’s United Front department, a powerful agency that works to advance the regime’s interests abroad, including by carrying out foreign influence operations, suppressing dissident movements, gathering intelligence, and facilitating the transfer of technology to China.
Aside from ties to the Party, senators in two letters on July 10 raised concerns about the potential cooperation between the centers and the regime’s top police agency, the Ministry of Public Security.
They pointed to a 2018 meeting between representatives of the service centers in the United States and Chinese police officers, during which the OCSC staffers studied “cross-border remote justice services” launched by the Public Security Bureau and the courts in Wenzhou, a city in eastern Zhejiang Province, according to Qiaowang, a state-run media.
The Justice Department has warned that the Ministry of Public Security conducts “intelligence and national security operations far beyond China’s borders, including the illicit, transnational repression schemes.”
“We write to express our grave concerns regarding reports of ‘Overseas Chinese Service Centers’ (OCSCs) operated by an intelligence service of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in conjunction with the PRC’s national police force,” senators, led by Ted Budd of North Carolina, wrote in a Monday letter (pdf) to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Separately, Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and seven other Republican senators called for an immediate probe of the regime’s U.S.-based service stations in a Monday letter (pdf) to FBI Director Christopher Wray and the Justice Department’s Assistant Attorney General for National Security Division Matthew Olsen.
“The CCP’s intent is clear with its operation of these OCSCs: to intimidate and surveil Chinese Americans with dissenting opinions,” they wrote.
As of September 2017, the CCP has established over 60 service centers across five continents, according to a statement by the Utah branch.
There are at least seven outposts currently operating in the United States. According to China’s state media, they’re in Charlotte, North Carolina; San Francisco, California; Houston, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; St. Paul, Minnesota; Salt Lake City, Utah; and St. Louis, Missouri. The presence of the outposts was first identified by The Daily Caller.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is launching a probe into the reported presence of the Chinese service center in the state.
FBI And DOJ Probe
The revelation of more CCP’s agencies operating in the country came after the Justice Department charged two New Yorkers over allegedly running a secret CCP police station in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
The police station in Manhattan is believed to be part of more than 100 overseas stations operated by the Chinese regime in 53 countries, according to Safeguard Defenders, a Spain-based nonprofit.
Prosecutors said the two men conspired to work as agents of the CCP and took orders from the regime in order to track down and silence Chinese dissidents living in the United States.
“Just as troubling, in February, the U.S. Air Force shot down a Chinese spy balloon that had traveled through U.S. airspace for several days, an apparent act of provocation by the CCP,” Ms. Blackburn and seven senators wrote in the letter.
“Taken together, these troubling events demonstrate the need to take serious the real and ongoing threats that China poses to our national security. Thus, it is imperative for the Biden administration to act decisively.”
They provided Mr. Wray and Mr. Olsen with a list of questions regarding the CCP’s outposts, including whether they agreed “the intent of these OCSCs is to coerce and surveil Chinese Americans.”
Reached for comment, an FBI spokesperson said they received the letter.
“Generally speaking, the FBI conducts logical, fact-based investigations and follows the evidence wherever it may lead. We’re increasingly conducting outreach in order to raise awareness of how some countries’ governments harass and intimidate their own citizens living in the U.S. This violates U.S. law and individual rights and freedoms, and will not be tolerated,” the spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email.
DOJ Briefing Requested
OCSCs are part of the eight projects launched in 2014 by the regime’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO), which are aimed at providing services to overseas Chinese, and “giving full play to their strength to achieve the China Dream,’” according to office’s official website. China Dream is a slogan associated with the CCP’s top leader Xi Jinping, who has vowed to transform the country into a superpower by 2049.
In 2018, the OCAO moved under the control of the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD).
In the letter to Mr. Garland, the senators cited a 2016 report (pdf) by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which characterized the agency as Beijing’s intelligence service.
The UFWD “mostly focuses on the management of potential opposition groups inside China, but it also has an important foreign influence mission,” the commission said in another detailed report published in 2018.
“To carry out its influence activities abroad, the UFWD directs ‘overseas Chinese work,’ which seeks to co-opt ethnic Chinese individuals and communities living outside China, while a number of other key affiliated organizations guided by China’s broader United Front strategy conduct influence operations targeting foreign actors and states.”
The State Department stated in 2018 that the UFWD “is responsible for coordinating domestic and foreign influence operations, through propaganda and manipulation of susceptible audiences and individuals.”
Mr. Budd and nine other GOP senators asked Justice Department to brief them and provide more information regarding the UFWD-linked centers, including whether these outposts engaged in any illegal activity.
“The DOJ must ensure that our adversaries such as the CCP are not operating intelligence operations or engaging in repression on U.S. soil,” they wrote.
According to China’s state media, the first service center in the United States was set up inside the Chinese American Association of Commerce in San Francisco in 2014. In the following three years, six other centers were established across the United States.
The Chinese Service Center in St. Louis was established in December 2017, according to China’s foreign ministry.
Rep. Ann Wagner, a Republican of Missouri, also sounded the alarm over the CCP’s outpost in her state.
“The Chinese Communist Party has been trying to expand its influence globally and we must put a stop to any efforts to gain a foothold in America,” the congresswoman wrote on Twitter on June 23.
“Communist dictators can’t use American soil to go after courageous dissidents and innocent families, and we must continue to fight back against this regime’s dangerous ideology.”
Ms. Wagner notified the state’s attorney general about the presence of the centers. In reply, Mr. Bailey pledged to launch an investigation “immediately.”
“The information you have shared with my office about a possible CCP outpost within the borders of Missouri is deeply concerning and will receive the full attention of my office,” Mr. Bailey wrote in the June 28 letter to Ms. Wagner.
“The threat posed by the CCP is very real.”
The DOJ and the St. Louis service center didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’s request for comment by press time.
Eva Fu contributed to this report.