Utah senators urge Justice Department probe of Chinese Service Centers

Jul 10, 2023, 9:30 PM | Updated: Jul 11, 2023, 11:26 am

overseas chinese service centers utah chinatown location...

A “now hiring” sign at the Chinatown Supermarket in South Salt Lake is pictured on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. The same location hosts the Utah Chinese Civic Center, home to an Overseas Chinese Service Center, named in a letter from US senators as deserving scrutiny from the Justice Department. (Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)

(Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah — A Utah facility, one of several Overseas Chinese Service Centers meant to help Chinese citizens access government services while overseas, is under scrutiny after a letter from 10 Republican senators was sent to the Justice Department.

The senators are demanding the Justice Department investigate the facility and six similar centers as possible fronts for intelligence-gathering.

Utah facility named with Chinese Service Centers under fire

Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, both R-Utah, signed the letter along with eight other Republicans. In it, they pointed to a recent report from the partisan news site, Daily Caller, about the Overseas Chinese Service Centers in seven states.

That report, published in June, described the centers as “quietly” operated by a “Chinese intelligence agency” and in “contact with Beijing’s national police authority.” The Daily Caller cited its own review of Chinese government records and reporting in Chinese state-run media in its story. 

“According to this report, OCSCs 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 senators wrote in their letter. “The Department of Justice (DOJ) has warned that [the Ministry of Public Service] conducts covert ‘intelligence and national security operations far beyond China’s borders,’ including ‘illicit, transnational repression schemes’ on U.S. soil.” 

The Utah facility in question is the Utah Chinese Civic Center. It is located at 3390 S. State Street in South Salt Lake. It is just off 3300 South in the city’s Chinatown Market shopping center.  Several other businesses and restaurants call the location home – none of them face any scrutiny or accusations from the senators. 

OCSCs in the spotlight

Back in April, the FBI arrested two men in New York accusing them of targeting Chinese nationals with a police operation out of a community center. The government’s case centers on allegations that the men ran that facility on behalf of China’s Ministry of Public Security, targeting and repressing Chinese citizens. Specifically, the men were accused of spying on Chinese nationals living in the U.S. 

At the time, one of the charges involving the New York center alleged that it never registered with the U.S. State Department as agents of a foreign government. 

“Further, the ongoing discovery of additional OCSCs raises the question of whether DOJ’s response sufficiently addresses the threat, particularly because OCSCs have openly operated for several years and their activities have been reportedly documented in Chinese state media and social media posts,” the senators wrote.

They continued: “The DOJ must ensure that our adversaries such as the CCP are not operating intelligence operations or engaging in repression on U.S. soil.” 

The senators’ letter, addressed to US Attorney General Merrick Garland, asks the Justice Department to brief the senators by the end of July on a number of questions. Those questions include whether any of the seven centers conducts illegal activity, what action the government is taking, and whether there are additional centers or facilities they are aware of. 

Read more: 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Politics + Government

President Joe Biden is set to join members of the United Auto Workers union on September 26 in Wayn...

Betsy Klein and Nikki Carvajal, CNN

Biden makes a historic trip to Michigan to walk the picket line to show solidarity with striking UAW – and counter Trump

The trip comes as President Biden faces consistently low polling numbers on his handling of economic issues.

50 minutes ago

FILE - The White House, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)Cred...

Mariah Maynes

Gen Z does not trust institution, poll finds

A Gallup poll revealed that Gen Zers lack trust in institution. One expert explains how leadership can regain it.

2 hours ago

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and other top Garden State Democrats are calling on Democratic Sen. Bob...

Mark Jones

The latest on the indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez

In a press conference Monday, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was defiant after being indicted on bribery charges on Friday. ABC News correspondent Justin Finch has the latest.

14 hours ago

SALT LAKE CITY -- With just a week until a potential government shutdown, Utah leaders are saying U...

Clayre Scott

‘We’ll find the money’: Utah leaders working to keep national parks open during potential government shutdown

With just a week until a potential government shutdown, Utah leaders are saying national parks will remain open without federal funding. 

3 days ago

FILE - The U.S. Capitol is seen on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. New Jerse...

Mark Jones

Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted Friday, what does this mean?

Andy Field with ABC News shares his insight into the indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J,.

4 days ago

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and other top Garden State Democrats are calling on Democratic Sen. Bob...

Dan Berman

New Jersey governor calls on Sen. Bob Menendez, a fellow Democrat, to resign

After being indicted, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez has been asked by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to resign.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Utah senators urge Justice Department probe of Chinese Service Centers