By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Sept. 18: A Spain-based NGO said that China has set up 54 “overseas police service centers” worldwide operated by Chinese community groups associated with the Chinese Communist Party, to target and pressure dissents abroad. Safeguard Defenders on Monday released a report that claimed that under the project “110 Overseas”, official provincial statements and guidelines from the local ministries of Public Security highlighted mass use of “persuasion to return” methods.
The stations already have a staggering number of 2,30,000 Chinese nationals who have possibly been coerced to face potential criminal charges in China through these methods, which includes threats and harassment to family back home or to the target abroad. From April 2021 to July 2022, Chinese police have successfully “persuaded” these alleged fugitives to return to China “voluntarily” while also admitting not all targets have committed any crimes. One of the key findings of the 20-page report was that some new tools have been put down on paper, including denying the target’s children in China the right to education, and other limitations on family members.
It also noted that a new law adopted in China on Sept. 2 established full extraterritoriality over Chinese and foreigners globally for specific crimes including fraud, telecom fraud, online scams, etc. Citing a Chinese language news article, it said that the program received over 2,100 calls from 88 countries by June 14. These so-called stations have local phone numbers and ordinary addresses, for example one station in Dublin belongs to a Chinese supermarket, while a Glasgow (Ireland) address is a functioning Chinese restaurant. The list also includes stations in countries like France, Spain, Canada, Brazil, US, Japan, Nigeria, and Mongolia.
The “110 Overseas” programme was set up after the launch of a massive nationwide campaign to combat alleged fraud by Chinese nationals living abroad in 2018, according to the report. CCP mouthpiece Xinhua said that local authorities had combed every household to document the whereabouts of people before “doing everything possible” to persuade suspects overseas to return home. Media reports also concurred that Chinese authorities made threatening announcements to “freeze assets, remove civil registrations, or tank their credit rating unless they returned”. Other tactics included barring suspects’ family members from educational and career opportunities in the military or public sector.
The NGO hence alleged that these policing operations by the Chinese authorities stretched onto nations beyond China “eschew official bilateral police and judicial cooperation and violate the international rule of law, and may violate the territorial integrity of third countries involved in setting up a parallel policing mechanism using illegal methods.”