Ireland orders China to close police office as Netherlands probes ‘service centers’

Ireland on Thursday ordered Beijing to shut down its “overseas Chinese police service center” in Dublin, as the Dutch government said it would investigate media reports about Chinese police offices in the Netherlands, which are believed to enable Chinese police to operate illegally overseas.

The Department of Foreign Affairs ordered a Chinese “police service station” operating in Dublin city center to close, the Irish Times reported.

“The Department noted that actions of all foreign states on Irish territory must be in compliance with international law and domestic law requirements,” the paper quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying. 

“On this basis, the Department informed the Embassy that the office on Capel Street should close and cease operations.”

The Chinese Embassy had confirmed that the office has now ceased operations, the foreign ministry said.

The Irish statement came after the Dutch government said it would probe service centers in the Netherlands in response to two reports run by broadcaster RTL Nieuws earlier this week.

“Appropriate action will be taken. We take this very seriously,” a Dutch foreign ministry spokesperson told the station.

In an investigation that appeared to confirm earlier allegations from the Spanish-based rights group Safeguard Defenders that Chinese police were operating from offices across Europe, the RTL reports quoted Dutch lawmakers as calling for the immediate closure of the offices.

“Secret police stations”

“Now that it’s clear that these two secret police stations are operating illegally here, we shouldn’t wait a day longer,” Dutch MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma of the Democrats 66 party told RTL. “These activities must be stopped as soon as possible and the stations must be closed.”

Free People’s Party MP Ruben Brekelmans said the offices were “another example of the Chinese government’s infiltration of the Netherlands.”

The Chinese repression model must not be allowed to infiltrate the Netherlands,” Brekelmans said via his Twitter account.

“The government has to get to the bottom of this … and must demand the closure of these Chinese outposts,” the tweet said, calling for a register of individuals who work for a foreign government.

In Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Brenda Lucki described the Chinese overseas service centers in January as ‘a growing problem,’ with a probe already under way.

Safeguard Defenders reported in September that China is carrying out “illegal, transnational policing operations” across five continents, targeting overseas critics of the Chinese Communist Party for harassment, threats against their families back home and “persuasion” techniques to get them to go back to China.

Chinese police are currently running at least 54 “overseas police service centers” in foreign countries, some of which work with law enforcement back home to run operations on foreign soil, the Sept. 13 report found.

A number of reports on official news websites in China have also reported on the service centers, with a June 6, 2022, report listing service centers run by police in the southeastern city of Fuzhou as having “police work” within their remit.

Targeted

Chinese national Wang Jingyu, who is seeking asylum in the Netherlands after a harrowing escape from Chinese agents last year that spanned the Middle East and Eastern Europe, said he was targeted by calls he believes came from the “service center” in Rotterdam earlier this year.

The initial call was from someone claiming to be a wealthy overseas Chinese businessman looking to support dissidents.

“The Chinese police and overseas Chinese service station in Rotterdam tried to meet with me in February, pretending to be this rich man saying he supports dissidents,” Wang told RFA after the RTL report was published. “He wanted me to meet with him somewhere in Rotterdam, so I ignored him.”

“He was so angry that he started repeatedly calling me to harass and abuse me,” Wang said. “This harassment continued until March.”

ENG_CHN_PoliceNetherlands_10272022.2.jpg
Chinese national Wang Jingyu, who is seeking asylum in the Netherlands, says he was targeted by calls he believes came from the “service center” in Rotterdam earlier this year. Credit: Wang Jingyu

Wang called on European governments to take note of Chinese cross-border law enforcement activities.

“Basically this is a law enforcement agency illegally set up by the Chinese Communist Party in Dutch territory, seriously violating the sovereignty of the Netherlands,” he said.

“But I also feel a little puzzled as to how an illegal agency can operate in the Netherlands and many other European countries,” Wang said. “They have been persecuting dissidents [here] for a long, long time, including me.”

A man who answered the phone at the Rotterdam overseas Chinese service station denied any harassment had taken place, saying the media was “deliberately misinterpreting” the function of the service stations.

“Dutch TV is also talking about me, thinking I have something to do with the police,” the man, who introduced himself as overseas businessman Zheng Fabiao, told RFA. “The Fuzhou Public Security Bureau 110 service was set up as a way of filing police reports, as there are too many scams.”

“I am the president of an association,” Zheng said. “I can’t threaten anyone. I didn’t do anything,” he said. “This is just a fuss they are making about certain … organizations.”

A Zheng Fabiao is listed as chairman of the Dutch Chinese Economic and Technological Development Center.

Fujian overseas Chinese associations come under the umbrella of United Front Work Department, the Chinese Communist Party’s outreach and influence arm targeting groups outside the party at home and internationally.

A keyword search for “Zheng Fabiao United Front” resulted in official photos of Zheng attending an April 2018 symposium in Fujian province that was also attended by provincial United Front Work Department official Chen Ye.

According to a 2017 report by New Zealand political science professor Anne-Marie Brady, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is leading an accelerated expansion of political influence activities worldwide, much of which rely on overseas community and business groups, under the aegis of the United Front Work Department. 

Overseas Chinese community groups routinely issue public statements that parrot Beijing’s political line, including support for its territorial claims on democratic Taiwan and public denials of mass human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin denied that Chinese police are operating out of offices in Europe.

“The allegation is simply untrue,” Wang told a regular news briefing in Beijing on Wednesday. “Chinese public security authorities are fully committed to fighting transnational crimes in accordance with the law, while strictly observing international law and fully respecting the judicial sovereignty of other countries.”

Wang said the overseas Chinese service centers mostly enable Chinese people to process bureaucratic paperwork, including renewing expired driver’s licenses.

Canadian journalist Jonathan Manthorpe, said there are at least three service centers in Toronto, describing China’s claims about them as “absolute nonsense,” and adding that they enable Chinese law enforcement agencies to operate overseas.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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