Informal police stations operated by Chinese community groups associated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have sprouted in London, a new report claims.
China has reportedly set up 54 “overseas police service centers” worldwide as part of its growing international network of CCP-backed agencies built in recent years, according to Spain-based nonprofit Safeguard Defenders.
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The growing number of such informal police stations has become the center of attention as Beijing faces accusations that it has been harassing political dissidents living abroad.
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But while there have been reports of Chinese citizens being forced to return home through blackmail and intimidation, no evidence has emerged that the “police stations” have been used for such means.
The centers, dubbed the “110 overseas service stations” after the country’s police emergency phone number, were originally created by local authorities in China to put a stop to telecom scams operating outside the country.
According to the report, two such “service” stations have been established in London, one of which is registered as an estate agency while the other is a Chinese restaurant.
Both locations denied any links to the police service centers. The estate agency told The Telegraph that its office is also used by a legal firm which mostly handles issues concerning Chinese immigration.
The 110 overseas service stations provide assistance to Chinese nationals residing abroad in handling paperwork, including Chinese driver’s licenses and other official documents.
Chinese state media have indicated in reports that some of these international centers have also performed operations in collaboration with the Chinese police.
“In general, these stations have both a good and a bad purpose,” Safeguard Defenders Director Peter Dahlin was quoted as saying. “They are there to help say Chinese tourists who get into trouble, they can act as a liaison with the local police, they can help out, basically. The problem is they are not properly registered as [agents for the police] in these different countries.”
Dahlin also pointed out that the offices operated “under the radar” of the British police while “targeting the Chinese diaspora.”
The nonprofit reported that 36 stations have been built in 16 European countries, including France, Spain, Britain and Germany, while the rest can be found in the Americas, Asia and Africa.
The report further highlighted that pursuing a target using its “service” stations allows China to avoid formal extradition proceedings and sidestep the “growing scrutiny of its human rights record.”
“It leaves legal Chinese residents abroad fully exposed to extra-legal targeting by the Chinese police, with little to none of the protection theoretically ensured under both national and international law,” the report stated.
Beijing’s efforts to target Chinese people abroad have so far been successful as Chinese authorities have reportedly “persuaded” 230,000 nationals to return to China and face criminal proceedings between April 2021 and July 2022.
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