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Chinese Government Blocks Amnesty International HQ Move

Wall Street Plaza, an office building in Manhattan's Financial District

Amnesty International USA was set to move its headquarters to Wall Street Plaza, a skyscraper in the heart of New York City's Financial District, a move that would have warranted a few cursory mentions in real estate publications like this one. Then, according to the New York Times, the group got a call: The deal was off. 

Wall Street Plaza has been owned by the same entity, Orient Overseas Associates, for half a century. But the landlord's parent company was bought by Chinese state-owned enterprise Cosco Shipping two years ago, effectively making the Chinese government the owner of the 32-story 88 Pine St. office tower.

Amnesty International USA was unaware of the Chinese government's involvement in the building, its spokesperson told the New York Times. It was a week before the lease was set to be finalized when the nonprofit was told the deal had been denied.

"[Orient Overseas' representative's] response was along the lines that we weren’t the best tenant for a building owned by a Chinese S.O.E., and that we probably wouldn’t want to be a tenant there anyway, given the owners,” Amnesty International spokesperson Robyn Shepherd told the Times.

Amnesty International, which is based in London, has a long history of reporting on human rights abuses by the Chinese government. 

Wall Street Plaza is not the only building experiencing complications in New York City due to its Chinese ownership. State-owned HNA Group, for instance, sold 850 Third Ave. last year amid reports the U.S. government was considering seizing the property over security concerns related to nearby Trump Tower.

Recent policy changes in China have more broadly led Chinese firms to halt their yearslong buying spree of high-priced U.S. commercial real estate — in the last three months of 2018, Chinese firms sold nearly $1B in properties more than they bought.