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Texas senators want answers on Chinese intel centers inside U.S.

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(The Center Square) – Texas Republican U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn joined a group of ten others demanding answers about reports of alleged Chinese intelligence outposts operating in the U.S.

On Monday, they sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland expressing their “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.”

The senators cite Chinese government and state-run media reports published online, which state that OCSC are reportedly located in cities in seven states, including in Houston, Texas.

The letter cites a listing published online by Qiaowang, ChinaQW.com, of a Chinese Overseas Network “activity” center in Houston. The contact address on the site is for the Chinese Civic Center located in the Westchase neighborhood and “new Chinatown” of Houston, according to a review by The Center Square. The civic center’s website homepage doesn’t indicate that it’s an OCSC operated by the PRC. Its homepage includes videos of smiling residents cleaning and engaging in community service activities. It states it’s been approved by as an “official Certifying Organization for the President’s Volunteer Service Award.”

According to its website, the Chinese Civic Center is a 501c(3) nonprofit established in 1995 by volunteers from Houston’s Chinese community. Its goal is to “foster collaborative efforts, volunteerism and leadership, promote multi-cultural arts, language, and Chinese heritage, enrich the lives of families and individuals, enhance US-China friendship and links and strengthen our community.”

The center “currently serves over 3000 people in any given week and is often the first stop for Chinese immigrants as they begin new lives in Houston.”

Its corporate sponsors include Baker Hughes, BP, Century 21, Chevron, Coca-Cola, ConocoPhillips, Continental Airline, Diho Square, Dow Chemical, Exxon Mobil, First American National Bank, HEB, Hong Kong Food Market, Houston Rockets, JP Morgan Chase, Marathon Oil, Metro Bank, New York Life, Remax, Reliant Energy, Southwestern National Bank, Texas First National Bank, among others.

The OCSCs, the senators note, “are run by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) United Front Work Department (UFWD), which the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has identified as a ‘Chinese intelligence service’ in its annual report to Congress.” The letter also states that “U.S.-based OCSC representatives also met with officials of the PRC’s national police force, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), on a trip to China to discuss the use of technology to conduct ‘cross-border remote justice services’ overseas, according to the reports.”

The Department of Justice has already warned that MPS “conducts covert ‘intelligence and national security operations far beyond China’s borders,’” the senators warned, “including ‘illicit, transnational repression schemes’ on U.S. soil.”

In their letter, the senators question the DOJ’s ability to sufficiently address threats posed by China, request to be briefed on the threats posed by OCSCs, and request Garland reply to their questions by July 31.

They ask Garland to explain if the DOJ has assessed if any of the seven OCSCs identified in the reports are engaging in any illegal activity; to explain what action the DOJ is taking related to the OCSCs; if the DOJ’s aware of additional OCSCs or similar PRC facilities operating in the U.S. and to identify and describe them; what actions DOJ is taking to ensure it has identified every OCSC or similar PRC facility in the U.S. and what action it’s taking to ensure the PRC doesn’t establish additional OCSCs or similar facilities in the U.S.

They sent the letter after the Madrid, Spain-based nongovernmental organization Safeguard Defenders first reported on secret Chinese government police stations in the U.S., including in Houston. The report prompted the DOJ to file complaints against 44 Chinese nationals in April and a coalition of 12 U.S. House members to demand answers from the FBI.

Their inquiry also comes after U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez, R-Florida, among others, also demanded answers from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken about a Chinese spy base operating in Cuba presenting an “imminent threat” to Americans.

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