Netherlands orders closure of ‘unacceptable’ Chinese police offices

Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra in a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart in Oslo on 14 September 2022 (NTB/AFP via Getty Images)
Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra in a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart in Oslo on 14 September 2022 (NTB/AFP via Getty Images)

The Dutch foreign ministry has announced the closure of “illegal” Chinese police offices that have been operating in the country under the guise of service centres.

The Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra on Wednesday said the presence of these police offices in the country was “unacceptable” and told the media that he had told China’s ambassador to the Netherlands about the decision.

“We are now investigating as a ministry what is going on with the centres, and when we have more intel about it we can determine the appropriate action,” Dutch foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Maxime Hovenkamp had said last week.

“What is correct is that the Chinese government never informed us about the centres via diplomatic channels so that makes them illegal to begin with.”

Now, Mr Hoekstra said the Netherlands will further investigate what activities took place in the offices that were working on behalf of the Chinese government.

The Chinese embassy had earlier told Reuters that it “was not aware of the issue... and not involved in it”.

RTL News last week reported that the Chinese police opened at least two offices in the Netherlands since 2018 without informing the Dutch government. It said that “there are strong indications that the branches are used to put pressure on critical Chinese even in the Netherlands”.

The investigations by RTL News and investigative journalism portal Follow the Money revealed the offices were located in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

China has such offices in at least 30 countries and was using them to press political aims abroad, including “in covert and illegal policing operations in Spain”, according to the Spanish human rights organisation Safeguard Defenders.

The point of such underground centres was for China’s Communist Party to stifle criticism within expatriate communities “as much as it has done at home for so long”, Safeguard Defenders spokesperson Laura Harth was quoted as saying by Reuters.

It was reported that these police offices that used to work under the guise of service stations are used to monitor Chinese people in the Netherlands.

Mr Hoekstra told the press that “you have to ask permission from the host country, in this case the Netherlands, for that, and that has not happened.”

“We have been clear about what we think about it, that we want to get to the bottom of this and that the whole thing must be closed immediately,” the minister said.

He added that “other countries also have to deal with the same or something similar. That requires allies to consult among each other.”