The Chinese ‘community centers’ in San Francisco, Nebraska and Houston suspected of secretly working for Beijing

The China hubs in San Fran, Nebraska, Houston suspected of working for Beijing after FBI bust ‘illegal police station’ in Manhattan and warned of other spying outposts. identifies hubs suspected of being run by Beijing to silence critics
They claim to be run for ‘cultural’ purposes, but have links with the Chinese state
It comes after an alleged Chinese spy station in Manhattan was busted by the FBI

A bland, two-story red brick building is surrounded by a perimeter fence in a nondescript neighborhood in Omaha. Passersby are greeted by a modest billboard that reads: Welcome To Nebraska Chinese Center.

In the heart of San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown, wedged next to a Chinese jewelers and an oriental restaurant, lies the Chinese American Association.

And in Houston, the Chinese Civic Center covers 22,800 sqft of an industrial estate, boasting a function room, library, and dozens of classrooms.

All three centers claim, in one way or another, to promote Chinese culture and education. But what belies their banality is that their addresses and telephone numbers appear on a list of overseas cells run by a branch of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – and are suspected by an NGO of being run by a Beijing authority known to ‘silence’ its critics. identified their locations after the FBI arrested two Chinese operatives this week for allegedly running an illegal police station in Manhattan’s Chinatown. has identified the locations of three Chinese ‘community centers’ in the US, including the Chinese American Association in San Francisco (above), suspected by an NGO of being run by a branch of the Chinese Communist Party known to ‘silence’ its critics.

The Chinese Civic CenterIIn Houston also has links to Beijing, has found

Liu Jianwang, 61, of the Bronx, and Chen Jinping, 59, of Manhattan, are accused of using their base, situated on top of a ramen shop next to an acupuncturist, to spy on and harass dissidents on US soil.

They were charged with conspiring to act as agents for the Chinese government.

In addition, 44 Chinese nationals were charged by federal prosecutors with waging a campaign of surveillance and harassment against dissidents living in the US.

The Manhattan cell is just one of 102 Chinese ‘overseas police service stations’ across 53 countries worldwide, including four in the US, according to Madrid-based NGO Safeguard Defenders.

These ‘spy stations’, which purportedly function as cultural and administrative centers for foreign nationals, are run by local Chinese security agencies to control and surveil dissidents, it is alleged.

Some have been involved in ‘persuasion to return’ operations, in which CCP critics who fled China are coerced into returning to the country.

Safeguard Defenders say there are four Chinese ‘police stations’ in the US: the one in Manhattan, two others at undisclosed addresses in New York and Los Angeles, and a fourth at an unknown location.

Subtly distinguished from these ‘police stations’ are also four ‘Overseas China Service Centers’, including those in San Francisco, Nebraska and Houston – and another at an unknown location in Minnesota – that are suspected of running ‘similar operations’.

Unlike the so-called Chinese ‘police stations’ in New York and LA, there is no evidence yet that links these ‘service centers’ to ‘persuasion to return’ operations, nor is there explicit language used by Chinese media describing them as ‘police outposts’.

The Chinese American Association in San Francisco is wedged between a jewelers and an oriental restaurant

When visited earlier this week the door to the association was locked
The center is located in the heart of San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown at 778 Clay Street.

On the surface, everything appears above board.

The President of the Houston Chinese Civic Center is Yichuan Fang, a principal engineer at chemicals firm Air Products, who was a post-doctoral fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology after attending the University of Science and Technology in Hefei, China.

There is no evidence to suggest he is a CCP puppet.

The center claims to serve more than 3,000 locals and offers a full range of classes ranging from English, music and art to Chinese culture.

Its website lists Coca Cola, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, JP Morgan Chase, and Metro Bank among its hundreds of donors and sponsors.

Similarly, the Chinese American Association in San Francisco claims to exist for the ‘promotion of trade and cultural exchanges between the People’s Republic of China and the USA’.

It is a discreet organization, without an official website.

Loud street art daubed on the left of the building crowds out the small red sign that barely denotes its existence.

When visited earlier this week, the door to the association was locked and a paper sign told punters the restaurant it shares a premises – although is not thought to be connected with – was closed.

The only sign of life was the Chinese children who bustled past as they left the school nearby.

The Nebraska Chinese Association is surrounded by a perimeter fence in a nondescript neighborhood in Omaha. It overlooks a main road that separates it from a church opposite.

Its Facebook page shows the center organizing various community events for dozens of locals.

Common among overseas Chinese centers are Luna New Year Gala shows at their venues
The Nebraska center has a ballroom fit for 250 people equipped with a portable podium, sound systems and a large overhead projector
Its mission statement is ¿to preserve and promote the Chinese culture and heritage, raise awareness of cultural diversity, and give back to the community¿
Similarly, the Nebraska Chinese Association’s (NCA) mission statement is ‘to preserve and promote the Chinese culture and heritage, raise awareness of cultural diversity, and give back to the community’.

President Linda Steele, 60, also known as Linda Chongning, worked as an account manager at the China Import and Export Corporation in Zhangzhou during the 1980s before moving to the US.

Here, she has worked variously as an insurance analyst, property manager and is now an associate professor at Bellevue University, according to her LinkedIn. is not suggesting she works for Beijing.

The association’s website advertises a Luna New Year Gala, an ‘exclusive event featuring traditional Chinese musicians from LA & performers from the heartland of America’.

To accommodate this, the center has a ballroom fit for 250 people equipped with a portable podium, sound systems and a large overhead projector.

Visit Omaha even endorses the venue, which is opposite a church, as ‘perfect’ for weddings or conferences, suggesting a large outdoor field is ‘available for those who want to extend their parties’ to activities including ‘bounce house’, volleyball and soccer.

None of this sounds like the work of Communist stooges. But it doesn’t need to be.

In Manhattan and other cells across the world, the premises are not literal ‘police stations’, but a point of contact for Beijing to coordinate overseas operations.

Locations are usually private residences or businesses performing administrative tasks, such as immigration services.

But they will also be receiving orders from authorities in China or local consulates and embassies that may include controlling, surveilling, or harassing people.

The NCA says it can offer passport renewal services because it has ‘established a direct network with representatives from the embassy’.

Annual membership of the association can be bought for $100, but applicants must provide a range of personal information, including their names, address, email, and number of adults and children in their household.

Although there is no evidence these details or the association’s links with the embassy are used for nefarious purposes, it bears a striking resemblance to how ‘spy stations’ are known to operate.

The Chinese Civic Center in Houston covers 22,800 sqft of an industrial estate and hosts a function room, library and classrooms.

Videos on its website show the center is the hub of the local Chinese community, organizing various conferences, celebrations and galas.

The center claims to serve more than 3,000 people with local dignitaries often appearing
Video footage shows community conferences appear to be held regularly at the center.

It offers a full range of classes ranging from English, music and art to Chinese culture.

Stacks of books line its library, while party balloons are tied to a pillar next to the reception.

The overseas China centers often purport to be places of learning and cultural education.

The Nebraska center, along with those in Houston and San Francisco, also share another key link with branches such as that in Manhattan: the United Front Work Department (UFWD), a Chinese government agency that controls overseas ethnic and religious affairs.

The UFWD has either set up these overseas centers, or has ‘co opted’ pre-existing community associations to do its bidding.

The Civic Center in Houston says it was established in 1995 to serve the needs of a growing local Chinese population.

But a Chinese state website suggests it was enlisted by the UFWD in November 2015, with the organization also extending its tentacles to Nebraska and San Francisco.

Laura Hearth, campaign director at Safeguard Defenders, says the UFWD seeks to promote the interests of the CCP and ‘silence’ its critics.

She also claims it has long been ‘cosying up to local politicians and law enforcement’ in a bid to give its associations a veneer of legitimacy.

It was a tactic used by the Manhattan ‘spy station’, whose annual gala dinner last year featured New York City Mayor Eric Adams as the guest of honor – an event that was not disclosed on the mayor’s official agenda.

Hearth says this ploy makes it harder for Chinese dissidents who feel threatened by these stations to report them to local authorities.

‘It’s the perfect operation,’ she adds.

There are four Chinese ‘police stations’ in the US, two in New York, one in Los Angeles and another at an unknown location. There are four other ‘Overseas Chinese Service Centers’, including those in Nebraska, Houston, San Francisco and one at an unknown location in Minneapolis, that are thought to be running ‘similar operations’, according to an NGO.

Ultimately, she believes that the distinction between ‘spy stations’, such as the one in Manhattan, and ‘overseas centers’, including those in Houston, Nebraska and San Francisco, is ‘superficial’.

Hearth says that while the former ‘represent a brazen violation of territorial sovereignty’, she believes ‘coordinated investigations across democracies should increasingly focus’ on overseas centers ‘to counter both influence operations and the transnational repression efforts exerted by these same groups’.

Lu Jianwang, 61, (right) of the Bronx was arrested on Monday morning over his alleged running of a Chinese ‘spy station’ in Manhattan
She points to open source evidence that hints at the potential transformation of an ‘overseas center’ into a ‘police station’.

Worryingly, Canadian police have recently begun investigations into two ‘overseas centers’ in Montreal, allegedly following reports from potential victims of threats, harassment and intimidation from those centers.

Last year, a Chinese government official – speaking on the condition of anonymity – even admitted the existence of overseas ‘stations’ and their role in ‘pressuring criminals’ to return to China.

An official from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Shanghai told the Spanish newspaper El Correo that: ‘Bilateral treaties are very cumbersome and Europe is reluctant to extradite to China.’

She added: ‘I do not see what is wrong in pressuring criminals to face justice with all the guarantees contained in Chinese law’, adding that ‘only legal means are used.’

All this has led to growing fears that there will be more tales like that of Liu, a Chinese resident in Spain.

Liu was wanted by prosecutors in China for ‘environmental pollution’ before being apprehended by a ‘spy station’ in Madrid in 2020.

Lu and Chen Jinping, 59 were both arrested on Monday morning at their addresses in New York.

They allegedly ran the secret police station above a ramen store in Manhattan’s Chinatown for several months
Liu was hauled into the station where he was put on a video call with police from his home province.

They were seated with a member of Liu’s family — placed there as a thinly-veiled threat — and Liu was ‘persuaded’ to return to the mainland where he was then prosecuted. contacted the Nebraska, Houston and San Francisco centers for comment, but none responded.

While it is worth repeating that there is no direct evidence linking these centers to a secretive cross-border rendition network, the suspicions held by Safeguard Defenders would be in keeping with China’s wider threat to US national security.

In January last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged that ‘the Chinese government is increasingly targeting people inside the US for personal and political retribution — undercutting the freedoms that our Constitution and laws promise.

‘The kinds of people the CCP tends to go after are not those that a responsible government would make their enemies — refugees, dissidents, and Uighurs — people with their own ideas, who speak or worship as their conscience dictates.’

Both are accused of running the station for a provincial branch of the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)
An obstruction of justice charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison
In November, Wray told a US Senate committee he was ‘very concerned’ about the presence of Chinese police stations in US cities.

His warning turned out to be a precursor to the arrests made in Manhattan this week.

According to the criminal complaint filed against the New York ‘police station’, its US-based operators helped track down dissidents who were living in the city, tried to persuade a fugitive to return home and continually ‘harassed and threatened’ the individual.

Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said the prosecution ‘reveals the Chinese government’s flagrant violation of our nation’s sovereignty by establishing a secret police station in the middle of New York City’.

He added: ‘Such a police station has no place here in New York City — or any American community.’


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