Countries should shut down Chinese consulates until the communist regime closes its network of illegal policing operations, a former deputy national security adviser said after nearly 50 additional stations were reportedly found.
“China’s overseas police stations are one of several ways Beijing is eroding our national sovereignty and depriving ethnic Chinese, in particular, of their rights as citizens of democracies,” China program chair at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Matt Pottinger, told Fox News. “Democracies should shutter China’s consulates until Beijing withdraws its illegal and extraterritorial law enforcers in our borders.”
Safeguard Defenders, a pan-Asian human rights organization, published an investigation Monday, called “Patrol and Persuade,” reporting that another 48 Chinese police service stations were operating abroad in addition to the 54 the group had identified in September. The reported locations span 53 countries, including four U.S.-based stations: two in New York City, one in Los Angeles and one set up by the Nantong Public Security Bureau in an undisclosed location.
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“We know the Communist Party of China (CCP) has been ramping up its transnational repression efforts around the world over the past years,” Safeguard Defenders’ campaign manager, Laura Harth, told Fox News. “And that the United Front Work networks linked to these stations have long been engaged in influence and interference operations abroad.”
“The stations appear as just the latest iteration of such growing practices,” she said.
These overseas police stations allow Chinese authorities to “carry out policing operations on foreign soil” and have aided a CCP campaign to combat citizens living abroad who have allegedly committed “fraud and telecom fraud,” Harth said. Since the campaign’s launch in April 2021, 230,000 Chinese nationals have been “persuaded to return” home to face prosecution for alleged crimes, according to the Ministry of Public Security in China.
Safeguard Defenders also linked the reported overseas policing network to activities of China’s United Front Work Department, a Communist Party organization charged with spreading its influence and propaganda overseas.
“The best testament to the scale of clandestine policing operations run by the [People’s Republic of China] authorities come from their own official statements and work reports,” Harth said. Beijing has touted the success of Operation Fox Hunt, a campaign that has returned over 11,000 high-value fugitives to China since 2014, according to Harth.
“The numbers and scale speak for themselves,” she said. “Especially in combination with the framework of illegal methods used … which include threats, harassment, detention of family members back home; the deployment of covert agents, embassy personnel, individuals tied to the overseas stations or hired agents to /persuade’ the target abroad directly on foreign soil; and even kidnappings.”
China’s Foreign Ministry has denied that it’s running undeclared police forces and said the locations provide services to its citizens living abroad, like renewing IDs and driver’s licenses.
However, the newly reported stations were set up as early as 2016, according to Safeguard Defenders’ investigation, disputing China’s statements that the operations were started in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even more concerning than China’s expanding operations, Harth said, is that “the vast majority of targeted countries appeared completely unaware” of the CCP’s police networks operating on their spoil, “highlighting an urgent need for a coordinated response across the democratic alliance.”
At least 13 countries, including Canada, Germany and the Netherlands, have begun investigations into these police stations following the initial reporting of their existence, according to Safeguard Defenders. The U.S. was also included on the list, but it’s not clear what steps the government is taking to look into the issue.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing in November that he was aware of the stations’ existence and found the issue deeply concerning but declined to detail the bureau’s investigative work on the matter.
“But to me, it is outrageous to think that the Chinese police would attempt to set up shop, you know, in New York, let’s say, without proper coordination,” Wray said. “It violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial and law enforcement cooperation processes.”
Harth said it has been “extremely encouraging to see the response of some governments” but recommended that all countries hosting one of these stations “take action to counter this common domestic threat and attack on fundamental freedoms and territorial sovereignty.”