China Focus International

China's Illegal Police Stations: Report Shows Larger Scale

The illegal police stations, called "service stations" by China, have a longer history and a larger scope of intimidation and forced returns of those affected than previously known. The governments of 14 countries have launched investigations into these "stations". The Chinese ambassador was summoned to Canada. The government in Ireland had the "station" in Dublin closed.

A detailed report by Safeguard Defenders, which uses publicly available documents for research in China, documents 110 of these "stations" in 53 countries. The program was launched in Italy in 2015. In addition to Italy, the establishment of these "stations" was initially tested in a "pilot phase" in Croatia, Romania and Serbia before they were established worldwide. Furthermore, the report refutes statements by the Chinese government that the employees are "volunteers". Official government documents from China, which Safeguard Defenders evaluated, show targeted recruitment of personnel in several countries. 21 employees were hired for the first 135 “stations”.

The Nantong, Wenzhou, Qingtian, and Fuzhou police districts are in charge of establishing and operating these "stations" under the direction of the Ministry of Public Security.

Joint police patrols and cooperation with several countries

China concluded a series of bilateral agreements with Italy on security issues in 2015. Joint patrols by Italian police and Chinese personnel are documented between 2016 and 2018. These were first carried out in Rome and Milan, and later also in Naples. In the meantime, 11 "stations" are known in Italy. Video surveillance was even installed in a residential area in Naples with many Chinese. In Rome in 2018, the ceremonial opening of a "station" was celebrated together with representatives of the Italian police.

Joint patrols have also been documented from Belgrade and Zagreb since 2018, allegedly "to protect Chinese tourists". According to a 2019 report by the Jamestown Foundation, there is also close cooperation between the government of South Africa and the "service stations" set up there, which according to Chinese press reports "deepened relations with Chinese expats living in South Africa".

Return to China under threats

The "stations" target opposition figures living abroad, including members of the Tibetan diaspora, and threaten them with measures against their relatives living in China or against themselves if they return to China. It usually starts with a phone call to at least silence those affected. Further pressure is exerted by specially trained officials who have traveled from China to make direct contact and "persuade" those affected to return. In two cases, in Madrid and Belgrade, people were summoned to the "stations". In Madrid, a Chinese woman was interviewed by the police in Qingtian via video link in the "Station". A third case is known from Paris; in all cases, those affected returned to China. It is not known what happened to them there.

The Guardian, December 1, 2022 // CNN, December 4, 2022 // Safeguard Defenders, December 5, 2022; full report: // dr. Uwe Meya

Photo: Safeguard Defenders

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  1. morning reader

    I can't imagine that something like this would be tolerated!
    Working with human rights abusers paid by their state
    (as in Italy) can only be described as naive.

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