The ‘secret’ operations of the Chinese police in Spain


A report details China’s legal operations abroad to “convince” Chinese criminal suspects to return home to face charges. They do this through a network of 54 offices in 30 countries. With 9, Spain is the country with the most bases

China’s growing power is felt both economically and geopolitically. And that means it is becoming increasingly difficult to escape the tentacles that the regime is expanding around the world. A good example of this is the successes of the ‘Skynet’ and ‘Fox Hunt’ operations designed by the government of Xi Jinping to make Chinese suspected of committing crimes against their compatriots abroad, with the corrupt at the center. of the target, or have pending lawsuits, returned to China to be prosecuted. According to the Asian giant’s official press, Chinese agents only managed to “convince” 230,000 people, mostly accused of telephone scams, to return to their homeland between April 2021 and last August.

The official China Daily newspaper states that during that period, the police solved as many as 594,000 frauds, intercepted 2,810 million calls for criminal purposes and prevented the transfer of some 81 million euros from 109 million victims. These police operations, boosted by the adoption on Sept. 2 of an extraterritoriality law protecting them from the prosecution of certain crimes, have “significantly reduced the number of people settling abroad to commit crimes against Chinese citizens.”

What they don’t count is how these acts of persuasion are performed. The human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders, which has uncovered numerous violations by the Communist Party, has thoroughly investigated the ‘modus operandi’ and discovered that the Chinese police operate illegally in 30 countries on four continents through a network of 54 ‘police stations abroad’. that behind the legitimate aim of providing consular services to Chinese citizens living outside its borders, lies many shady operations to identify and intimidate these suspects.

With nine, Spain is the country where more of these offices are found. They are spread over Madrid (3), Barcelona (2), Valencia (2), Santiago de Compostela and Manresa. Among the bases the NGO identifies as centers from which operations are conducted are Chinese associations, an online newspaper in Mandarin, and even Asian restaurants.

“We are convinced that there are many more, as these only belong to two jurisdictions – Fuzhou and Qingtian, where most of the Chinese in Spain come from – and China itself admits that it launched the project in ten years. So it could be up to five times more,” said Peter Dahlin, director of Safeguard Defenders, in an interview with this newspaper. “Some may have a positive purpose, because they help their compatriots, but they also serve to launch police operations that undermine Spain’s sovereignty,” he adds.

The organization has strong evidence of at least one case: a man named Liu who was persuaded to return to China in 2020 to face environmental pollution allegations. A video confirms that the Chinese prosecutor’s office cooperated with the Federation of Overseas Chinese and the Association of Qingtian Chinese in Spain to intimidate him, in the presence of a relative, through one of its offices in Madrid. “Coercion is one of the most common ways to persuade suspects to return,” said Dahlin, whose organization reported the matter to the National Police.

The Spanish Interior Ministry acknowledges that it is investigating the matter, although it does not clarify whether it was previously aware of it, and is using these investigations to avoid details about it. The Chinese embassy, ​​for its part, has not responded to questions from this newspaper, which has been able to verify that at least two of the companies identified by the NGO are actually cooperating with the Chinese police. They are the theoretical writing of a newspaper and a law firm, both from Madrid.

For its part, an official from China’s foreign ministry in Shanghai, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed information about operations abroad to “persuade” suspected criminals to return to their country. “Bilateral treaties are very cumbersome and Europe is reluctant to extradite China. I don’t see what’s wrong with pressuring criminals to go to court with all the guarantees that Chinese law offers,” he says, assuring that “only legal means are used.”

However, it has been proven that China regularly uses pressure measures against relatives residing in its territory to put pressure on the suspects it is looking for. And that Liu’s in Madrid is no exception. Several organizations have documented cases of arbitrary arrest and detention of family members, and even cases where their children have been prevented from attending school – something that even Chinese experts have criticized – their properties have been demolished and they have been removed from social security. All this, of course, before any legal process has been conducted to establish his guilt. Peter Dahlin himself, director of Safeguard Defenders, knows very well how these methods work, as he himself was arrested and forced on television to confess to crimes he had not committed before being deported.

Direct pressure abroad, through official or unofficial agents, is also among the methods used to intimidate wanted suspects. There have even been kidnappings in several places before the subsequent forced transfer to China, although there is no evidence that this has happened in Europe yet. Dahlin does not rule out the possibility that it will happen in the future “because it has already been tried in France.”

The two most notorious examples of the latter method are those of the Swede Gui Minhai and the Canadian Xiao Jianhua. The first had a bookstore in Hong Kong selling works highly critical of the Communist Party. Gui, along with four other booksellers, disappeared in 2015 after being “kidnapped” by men from the residential area where he lived in Pattaya, Thailand. After months without a trace of him, he reappeared in China, where he starred in a televised forced confession, assuring that he had returned to face the charges that weighed on him for a traffic accident that had occurred ten years earlier. . In 2018, he was again “kidnapped” from a Chinese train traveling with Swedish diplomats and was eventually sentenced to ten years in prison and five years of deprivation of his political rights for providing “intelligence information” to foreign troops.

His daughter, Angela Gui, considers herself an “accidental activist” and insists Gui is innocent. From the United Kingdom, he confirms that his conviction is based solely on political reasons. “My father’s cruel imprisonment should terrify us all,” he wrote in an article in The Washington Post. “In order for them to take us to China by force and convict us for crimes we did not commit, it is enough that we criticize the regime,” he added.

And that is precisely the greatest fear these operations raise: that they are going beyond the realm of ordinary crime to target activists and dissidents operating outside of China. “The Chinese government is paranoid, afraid that resistance will be organized abroad. These operations are a way of telling Chinese citizens that they can enjoy the rights and freedoms of democracy, not because they live abroad,” says Dahlin .

Even big businessmen like Xiao can fall victim to the Chinese repressive arm. Under duress from Chinese agents who were not authorized to operate in the former British colony, the financial magnate disappeared from the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. His family denounced him in 2017, but they later withdrew the complaint, also according to several sources. Xiao was sentenced to 13 years in prison last August for corruption and “endangering China’s financial security”.

“These methods allow the Communist Party and its security bodies to circumvent bilateral police and judicial cooperation mechanisms, thereby damaging the rule of law at the international level and the territorial integrity of the countries in which they operate,” Safeguard Defenders said. That is why the director demands that the offices be closed. “You have to send a clear signal that this will not be tolerated,” he says, convinced that although his victims are currently citizens of Chinese descent, the situation could change. “The rule of law only works if it applies to everyone. It is dangerous to exclude groups. And that would just make it easier for China to keep spreading its tentacles.”

Escaping from a dictatorial country to stage activism against the regime is something that countless activists and dissidents around the world are doing. China is no exception, and its territory has spawned from great artists like Ai Weiwei, who had to disappear for 81 days, to gay rights defenders like Fan Popo, as well as persecuted Uyghurs in Xinjiang. And one of the biggest fears they have is that they will not be able to express themselves freely even in Europe, as the threat of facing the Chinese justice system weighs heavily on them.

The excesses of the Chinese courts are notorious and the lack of procedural guarantees is a fact that manifests itself mainly in political or social affairs, which are often kept in secret. And Safeguard Defenders also denounces the use of house arrest as an increasingly common measure during the investigation of suspects, which can legally last six months. Officially, some 20,000 people were in this situation last year, a number that could exceed 100,000 according to NGO estimates. The government recognizes that more than 267,000 citizens have ever been under house arrest, a figure that could even triple.

And then there are the cases where the house arrest lasts much longer than the law stipulates without there being a penalty. A clear example was that of Liu Xia, the wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who died in prison. In addition to this form of house arrest, China also has secret locations where it can detain suspects for six months. “And these legal arrests are just the tip of an iceberg in which most of the unseen is other illegal arrests,” the activists denounced.

Source: La Verdad


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