China has denied reports that it has established “police stations” abroad in other countries, claiming that such facilities just let Chinese citizens use the local online service infrastructure in those nations.
Beijing responded after the Dutch government demanded that China shut down the “police service stations” there, claiming that no authorization had been sought from them.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, claimed during a news briefing on Wednesday that the locations indicated are neither “police stations” nor “police service centres.”
“They assist overseas Chinese nationals who need help accessing the online service platform to get their driving licences renewed and receive physical check-ups for that purpose. The venues are provided by local overseas Chinese communities who would like to be helpful, and the people who work on those sites are all volunteers who come from these communities,” he said.
“They are not police personnel from China. There is no need to make people nervous about this,” Zhao added.
After looking into what appeared to be a new push by multiple Chinese provinces to combat transnational telecom and online fraud earlier in September, the Madrid-based organisation Safeguard Defenders published a study on the Chinese police’s increasing worldwide policing toolbox.
Chinese authorities “persuaded” 230,000 alleged fugitives to return to China “voluntarily” between April 2021 and July 2022.
The creation of at least 54 “overseas police service centres” maintained by the police spread over five continents, some of which are suspected of working with Chinese authorities to conduct policing operations abroad, including in Spain.
The Safeguard Defenders claim that China has even passed legislation granting Chinese and foreigners worldwide extraterritoriality for a number of crimes, including fraud, telecom fraud, and cyber fraud.
The report also noted that for this overseas operation, official provincial statements and guidelines from the local Ministries of Public Security or Procuratorates highlight the widespread use of “persuasion to return” techniques rather than using international police or judicial cooperation mechanisms.