Reports of China operating “undeclared police stations” in the UK to clamp down on dissidents are “very concerning”, said a government spokesperson as parliamentarians demanded an urgent investigation into the accusation.
The comments came after an investigation by Spain-based NGO Safeguard Defenders revealed that at least 54 “overseas police service centres” have popped up across 21 countries on five continents with at least two found in London and one in Glasgow.
In a report entitled Chinese Transnational Policing Gone Wild, the group claimed that these unofficial enforcement bodies “serve a more sinister goal as they contribute to resolutely cracking down on all kinds of illegal and criminal activities involving overseas Chinese”.
Raising concerns about the violation of Britain’s law to illegally repatriate individuals, a British government spokesperson told the outlet that “any foreign country operating on UK soil must abide by UK law.
“The protection of people in the UK is of the utmost importance and any attempt to illegally repatriate any individual will not be tolerated.”
“A Chinese government official reportedly admitted the role of these stations in ‘pressuring criminals’ to return to China,” China Research Group of MPs was quoted as saying by The Times. “These ‘criminals’ could be Hongkongers, Uighurs, dissidents or indeed anyone who has dared to criticise the Chinese Communist Party.”
Meanwhile, China has denied running “illegal” overseas police stations, saying they are “Chinese service centres” aimed at helping people stuck abroad due to Covid-1-related travel restrictions, reported Bloomberg.
However, according to the Dutch media outlet RTL News, the establishments help Chinese-Dutch nationals renew their national driving licences and report changes in their civil status. But Safeguard Defenders said these stations actually carry out “persuasion operations”, looking to influence those suspected of speaking out against the Chinese regime to return to their homeland.
Persuasion techniques include denying suspects’ children the right to education in China as well as other actions against relatives and family members. China claims 230,000 nationals were persuaded to return to their country from 2021-22.
These police-style offices are also reportedly seeking contact with exiled Chinese critics in order to repress them even on Dutch soil, the report added, citing one such critic, Wang Jingyu, who was been hunted down by the Chinese police for three years in response to his criticism of the Xi Jinping administration on social media.
RTL News, the establishments help Chinese-Dutch nationals renew their national driving licences and report changes in their civil status. But Safeguard Defenders said these stations actually carry out “persuasion operations”, looking to influence those suspected of speaking out against the Chinese regime to return to their homeland.
Persuasion techniques include denying suspects’ children the right to education isn China as well as other actions against relatives and family members. China claims 230,000 nationals were persuaded to return to their country from 2021-22.
Safeguard Defenders claimed that these stations were “merely a phone number or front” which helped the Chinese officials in managing “applications of drivers’ licences and birth certificates” while helping to pressure dissenters to return.
And since “these stations are not registered, hence they are unknown to their host government”, a spokesperson told The Times. “They are operating on foreign soil, using local Chinese residents to carry out duties for the Chinese police. This is a major breach in any sense of the word.”
According to the outlet, the offices in Glasgow are linked to a popular Chinese restaurant, Loon Fung, with researchers alleging that China was trying to ride on the restaurant’s popularity.
Meanwhile, the two London offices were linked to addresses on high streets, including All Eat App in Croydon and Hunter Realty estate agents in Hendon.
According to The Times, a person at All Eat App told a reporter that he had “no right” to talk and cut the call on being asked about the alleged link with the Chinese police saying: “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
At the Hunter Realty estate agents, a Chinese woman denied the allegations, calling it “fraud information”.
“We don’t run any police station at this address . . . with the Chinese police. We never know about that,” she was quoted as saying by The Times. She added that the Chinese authorities might have listed the address without informing them because they are a Chinese company but went on to say she would “definitely not” be happy if it is the case.