The Chinese government has been accused of establishing at least two undeclared “police stations” in the Netherlands.
Dutch media found evidence that the “overseas service stations”, which promise to provide diplomatic services, are being used to try to silence Chinese dissidents in Europe.
A spokeswoman for the Dutch foreign ministry said the existence of the unofficial police outposts was illegal.
The Chinese foreign ministry has rejected the Dutch allegations.
The investigation was sparked by a report entitled Chinese Transnational Policing Gone Wild, by the Spain-based NGO Safeguard Defenders.
According to the organisation, the public security bureaus from two Chinese provinces had established 54 “overseas police service centres” across five continents and 21 countries. Most of them are in Europe, including nine in Spain and four in Italy. In the UK, it found two in London and one in Glasgow.
The units were ostensibly created to tackle transnational crime and conduct administrative duties, such as the renewal of Chinese drivers’ licences. But, according to Safeguard Defenders, in reality they carry out “persuasion operations”, aimed at coercing those suspected of speaking out against the Chinese regime to return home.
Services such as passport renewals or visa requests are usually handled by an embassy or consulate. Diplomatic rules apply in these locations, as laid out in the Vienna Convention, of which both the Netherlands and China are signatories.
Policing outposts like the ones China is accused of running could violate the territorial integrity of a host country by circumventing national jurisdictions and the protections afforded under domestic law.
Chinese Foreign affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday that what had been described as police stations overseas “are actually service stations for Chinese citizens abroad”, and China fully respected other countries’ judicial sovereignty.
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