China running ‘overseas police stations’ in Nigeria, other countries – Report

THE Chinese government has set up “overseas police stations” in Nigeria and other countries to keep track of its citizens abroad, a report by human rights watchdog Safeguard Defenders has revealed.

According to the report titled  ‘110 Overseas Chinese Transnational Policing Gone Wild’, the stations were established in all continents including Africa, Europe and America.

In Africa, the international ‘police stations’ have been set up in Nigeria, Lesotho and Tanzania, according to the report.

The report noted that the action of the Chinese government undermines the sovereignty of different countries.

“Rather than cooperating with local authorities in the full respect of territorial sovereignty, it prefers to cooperate with (United Front-linked) overseas ‘NGOs’ or ‘civil society associations’ across the five continents, setting up an alternative policing and judicial system within third countries, and directly implicating those organisations in the illegal methods employed to pursue ‘fugitives’,” the report stated.

The police stations go after Chinese citizens who are suspected to have committed offenses abroad in a bid to get them to return home to face criminal proceedings in China.

The report said China claimed that from April 2021 to July 2022, 230,000 of its citizens in foreign countries were “persuaded to return” to face criminal proceedings as part of a massive campaign to combat fraud and telecommunication fraud by Chinese citizens living abroad.

The report said in a bid to force citizens in foreign countries to return to face criminal proceedings, Chinese authorities are depriving suspects’ children of the right to education back in China, and taking other actions against relatives and family members, in a full-on “guilt by association” campaign.

In a nationwide broadcast on Sunday, China’s President Xi Jinping said corruption “is a cancer to the vitality and ability” of the Communist Party and “fighting corruption is the most thorough kind of self-reform there is,” adding that as long as “the breeding grounds and conditions for corruption still exist, we must keep sounding the bugle and never rest, not even for a minute, in our fight against corruption”.

The Safeguard Defenders’ report revealed that China designated nine countries as having serious fraud, telecom fraud and web crimes, and Chinese nationals were no longer allowed to stay in those countries without “good reason”.

It noted that “rapidly emerging evidence pointed to extensive online campaigns and the use of Overseas Police Service Stations in five continents, often using local Chinese Overseas Home Associations linked to the CCP’s United Front Work”.

“These operations 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.

“While establishing these operations to hunt down those accused of fraud and telecommunications fraud, China identified nine countries particularly prone to hosting Chinese nationals engaging in such criminal activities, the nine forbidden countries,” the report said.

The report however noted that the setting up of overseas police ‘service stations’ by the Chinese government was a worldwide phenomenon, with the majority of such being in Western democratic nations, with a particular focus on Europe, and not in the ‘nine forbidden countries’.

As documents obtained by Safeguard Defenders revealed, the overseas police service stations had been used by police back in China to carry out “persuasion to return” operations on foreign soil, including in Europe.

The rights group noted that “abandoning any pretext of due process or the consideration of suspects’ innocence until proven guilty, targeting suspects’ children and relatives in China as ‘guilty by association’ or ‘collateral damage’, and using threats and intimidation to target suspects abroad, is now itself becoming an endemic problem”.

According to the report, the epidemic of fraud and online fraud has spread throughout China, both domestically and internationally. The Chinese police said in April 2022 that they had settled 394,000 cases and arrested 634,000 suspects in 2021, an increase of 28.5 per cent and 76.66 per cent, respectively.




     

     

    They also claimed that the successful campaign had successfully curbed the expansion of online fraud offenses.

    The report noted that a significant portion of the effort was spent on targeting individuals accused of fraud and suspected cases of human trafficking abroad.

    “Whether the targets are dissidents, corrupt officials or low-level criminals, the problem remains the same: The use of irregular methods — often combining carrots with sticks — against the targeted individual or their family members in China undermines any due process and the most basic rights of suspects.

    “The described treatment of targets, their families and even wider community as suspected criminals — in some cases even in the absence of any factual accusation as emerges from the ‘nine forbidden countries’ — further deprives them of the right to be considered innocent until proven otherwise and the right to a fair trial, and also institutes a far-reaching ‘guilt by association’ paradigm,” the report added.

    Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in society. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.

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