Lu Jianwang, 61, and Chen Jinping, 59, face charges of conspiring to act as agents of China's government without informing U.S. authorities and obstruction of justice. They were released on bond following an initial appearance in Brooklyn federal court.
A 2022 investigation published by Spain-based advocacy group Safeguard Defenders reported that China had set up overseas "service stations," including in New York, that illegally worked with Chinese police to pressure fugitives to return to China.
The Chinese government has said there are centers outside China run by local volunteers, not Chinese police officers, that aim to help Chinese citizens renew documents and offer other services.
The Department of Justice has been ramping up probes into what it calls "transnational repression" by U.S. adversaries such as China and Iran to intimidate political opponents living in the United States.
"We cannot and will not tolerate the Chinese government's persecution of pro-democracy activists who have sought refuge in this country," Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, told reporters.
Prosecutors on Monday unveiled charges against 34 Chinese officials for allegedly operating a "troll farm" and harassing dissidents online, including by disrupting their meetings on U.S. technology platforms.
They also added eight Chinese government officials as defendants in a case announced in 2020 charging a former China-based executive of Zoom Video Communications Inc (ZM.O) with disrupting video meetings commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
The officials charged are all at large.
"By initiating prosecution against Chinese citizens under the pretext of 'transnational repression', the U.S. side is exercising long-arm jurisdiction based on fabricated charges. This is sheer political manipulation, and the purpose is to smear China’s image," said Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the U.S.