Romney Demands Answers on Chinese Intel Center in Salt Lake City

Senators pen letter to Attorney General Garland regarding reports of Chinese Intelligence outposts operating inside the United States

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today joined his colleagues, led by Senator Tedd Budd (R-NC), in penning a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding answers regarding reports of Chinese Intelligence outposts operating inside the United States, including in Salt Lake City, Utah. The letter was also signed by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Cornyn (R-TX), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Mike Lee (R-UT).

The full text of the letter can be found below.

We write to express our 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. One such OCSC is reportedly housed at the Carolinas Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the other centers are collocated with nonprofits in San Francisco, California; Houston, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; St. Paul, Minnesota; Salt Lake City, Utah; and St. Louis, Missouri.  These seven OCSCs have reportedly been openly operating for several years and were established throughout the U.S. during this past decade; for example, the Charlotte OCSC was first announced in 2017.

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.  Further, the report states that U.S.-based OCSC representatives 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. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has warned that MPS conducts covert “intelligence and national security operations far beyond China’s borders,” including “illicit, transnational repression schemes” on U.S. soil.

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

Due to the serious nature of this issue, we request that DOJ brief the undersigned Senators or their staff, and to respond to the following questions by July 31, 2023: 

  1. Does DOJ assess that any of the seven aforementioned OCSCs is engaging in any illegal activity?  If so, please describe this illegal activity.  
  2. What action, investigative or otherwise, is DOJ taking in relation to the seven aforementioned OCSCs?
  3. Is DOJ aware of additional OCSCs or similar PRC facilities operating in the U.S. that have not been previously acknowledged by DOJ?  If so, please identify and describe them.  
  4. What actions will DOJ undertake to ensure that it has identified every OCSC or similar PRC facility in the U.S.?
  5. What actions will DOJ take to ensure that the PRC does not establish additional OCSCs or similar facilities in the U.S.?