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WASHINGTON, Nov 17 (Reuters) – The United States is deeply concerned about the Chinese government setting up unauthorized “police stations” in U.S. cities for possible influence operations, the director said on Thursday. from the FBI, Christopher Wray, to lawmakers.

Safeguard Defenders, a human rights organization based in Europe, released a report in September revealing the presence of dozens of Chinese police “gas stations” in major cities around the world, including New York.

Republicans in Congress have demanded answers from the Biden administration about their influence.

The report said the stations were an extension of Beijing’s efforts to pressure some Chinese nationals or their relatives overseas to return to China to face criminal charges. He also linked them to the activities of the Chinese United Front Work Department, an organ of the Communist Party responsible for spreading its influence and propaganda overseas.

“I am very concerned about this. We are aware of the existence of these stations,” Wray told a US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, acknowledging but declining to detail the work of FBI investigation into the matter.

“But to me, it’s outrageous to think that Chinese police would try to move into, you know, New York, let’s say, without proper coordination. It violates sovereignty and bypasses standard judicial and police cooperation processes.”

Wray, asked by Republican Sen. Rick Scott whether those stations violated US law, said the FBI was “looking into the legal parameters.”

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Greg Murphy and Mike Waltz, sent letters to the Justice Department in October asking if President Joe Biden’s administration was investigating these stations and arguing that they could be used to intimidate Chinese American residents.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this month, its foreign ministry denied having such stations in the Netherlands after an investigation by Dutch authorities. China said these are offices to help Chinese citizens renew their documents.

Wray said the United States had brought a number of indictments involving the Chinese government harassing, stalking, surveilling and blackmailing people in the United States who disagreed with Chinese leader Xi. Jinping.

“It’s a real problem and something we also talk about with our foreign partners, because we’re not the only country where this has happened,” he said.

The United States unveiled criminal charges in October against seven Chinese nationals accused of carrying out a campaign of surveillance and harassment against an American resident and his family in an attempt by the Chinese government to repatriate one of them to China.

It was the latest Justice Department case targeting China’s efforts to track down people overseas who Beijing calls criminal suspects, known as “Operation Fox Hunt”.

Reporting by Michael Martina and Ted Hesson; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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