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Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Newman Delivers Remarks Announcing Transnational Repression Cases


Brooklyn, NY
United States

Good afternoon.

I am David Newman, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice. Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen is attending to other important matters in Washington and could not be with us today. I’d like to extend my thanks to U.S. Attorney Peace, Assistant Director Driscoll and Assistant Director Sundberg for welcoming me in his stead to address these significant cases.

The trio of cases announced today detail how the People’s Republic of China, through its Ministry of Public Security, has engaged in a multi-front campaign to extend the reach and impacts of its authoritarian system into the United States and elsewhere around the world. It shows the PRC’s efforts to globalize the oppressive tactics used domestically in China to silence dissent.

Authoritarianism is a threat to democracy. The efforts of the government of the PRC to export authoritarian methods to stifle free expression in the United States is a threat to our democracy that we will not abide.

Today’s arrests and disruptions show that the Department of Justice is committed to using the rule-of-law to hold accountable authoritarian state actors who seek to threaten the integrity of American public discourse and the right to free expression that underpins our nation’s values. We are calling foul on conduct that should be out-of-bounds for any responsible nation-state actor.

The MPS is seen as the Chinese government’s principal national police authority. But the actual role of the MPS is broader, extending to intelligence and national security operations far beyond China’s borders, including the illicit, transnational repression schemes that are the targets of today’s actions.

Across these cases, the multi-dimensional nature of the PRC’s transnational repression playbook stands out: 

First, in the physical sense, the MPS established a concrete outpost – an off-the-books police station in New York City to monitor and intimidate dissidents and others critical of the PRC within one of the United States’ most vibrant diaspora communities. The complaint alleges that, on behalf of the MPS, two New Yorkers opened and operated that so-called police station starting in February 2022.

Next, in the virtual sense, the threat from the PRC manifested as its agents and operatives sought to interfere with online gatherings, online organizing and other social media critiques of the PRC regime – going so far as to conspire with an employee of a U.S.-based technology company to compromise the privacy of online, virtual meetings, which were being used by attendees as a modern-day means of public protest and an exercise of the freedom of assembly.

This fact pattern underscores the insider threat risk facing any U.S. company that does business in China and has employees in China.

In the second complaint just unsealed, we have charged 34 defendants with conspiring to harass and threaten U.S.-based critics of the PRC regime. The 34 defendants are MPS officers who are members of the “912 Special Project Working Group.” The group’s officers post, monitor and update content on various social media platforms that mirror and amplify PRC-approved public messaging.

Using false names, these fake accounts disseminate and amplify messages to manipulate public perception in favor of the PRC and to undermine and discredit its perceived adversaries, including the United States – as well as democracy generally.

The MPS also uses these accounts to extend the PRC’s reach – both online and off – in order to intimidate specific critics and dissidents.

To that end, a third complaint unsealed today – which amends and builds on a prior complaint – lays out how MPS officers targeted participants in virtual convenings hosted on the platform of a U.S. communications technology company. Participants included Chinese dissidents and critics of the regime based in the United States and around the world.

As described in the amended complaint, the actions of the MPS officers had a chilling effect on meeting participants – some of whom had fled the PRC and knew the PRC was likely monitoring them from abroad.

The complaint in that case also alleges that the MPS worked closely with another defendant to censor speech on the U.S. technology company’s platform, including speech in the United States.

As announced when the original complaint was filed in December 2020, that defendant was an employee of the U.S. technology company who was working in China. We allege that the defendant removed content critical of the PRC; fabricated evidence of terms of service violations in order to end virtual meetings critical of the PRC; and suspended and canceled user accounts that were critical of the PRC.

Whether through these physical or virtual means, these crimes created real effects for real victims in the United States – victims whose rights the Department of Justice is committed to protecting.

As the National Security Division continues to pursue its Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats, we want to emphasize that our efforts, including today’s cases, are directed against the illicit actions of the PRC government and its agents – not the Chinese people, not the Chinese diaspora community in the United States and not at Americans of Chinese descent.

In our work in this space, we have seen that victims of transnational repression in the United States are too often individuals who came to the United States to benefit from the added protections that our Constitution and laws provide against authoritarianism and tyranny.

In the United States of America, the law protects all of us in the peaceful expression of our opinions, our beliefs, and our ideas. And in America, the law protects all of us equally from persecution, violence, and threats of violence.

As authoritarian governments – whether the PRC, Russia, Iran or others – become more brazen in their efforts to trample the rights and liberties that are the bedrock of our democracy, the Department of Justice will redouble its efforts to defend our democracy, our democratic institutions, and our sovereignty.

I’ll add my congratulations to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Attorney Peace’s team in the Eastern District of New York and my colleagues within the National Security Division, for their unflagging and continuing efforts to defend democracy from nation-state threats, regardless of where they originate.

Thank you.        

Countering Nation-State Threats
Updated April 17, 2023