China allegedly had two secret police stations in Australia. What do we know about them?

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Key points:
  • A report has found two secret Chinese police stations have been set up in Australia in recent years.
  • Australia is one of 53 countries listed as having had such a centre established.
  • Safeguard Defenders say these stations have been involved in persuading nationals to return to China to face criminal proceedings.
A new report claims at least two secret Chinese ‘police service stations’ have been set up within Australia.
Safeguard Defenders, an international non-governmental group that works to promote the rule of law and protect basic rights, reported earlier this year that Chinese police centres had been established across the globe.
It said while the stations are primarily set up to conduct a series of seemingly administrative tasks to aid Chinese people overseas, some of the centres collaborated with Chinese police in order “to harass, threaten, intimidate and force targets to return to China for persecution”.

A follow-up report, released on 5 December, includes Australia as one of the countries that Chinese police jurisdictions have set up in.

As uncovered by the ABC in October, one of those contact points was in Sydney.

The new report states the Wenzhou police jurisdiction in China had set up a police service station in Sydney but also that the Nantong police jurisdiction had set up somewhere within Australia, but the location had not been confirmed.

While these stations are understood to be established by individual Chinese counties, those behind the report say there is evidence they are being influenced by the Chinese government’s policies. Source: AAP / Koki Kataoka/AP

Where is China establishing overseas police presences?

The Safeguard Defenders’ September report identified 30 countries where Chinese police service stations had been established.
These countries included Canada, the United States and the Netherlands.
China’s ambassador to Canada has been summoned multiple times to appear before a government minister to answer questions about the allegations, Canada’s public broadcaster CBC reported.

The follow-up investigation in December has now identified further police service stations, listing 102 across 53 countries, including nations in Europe, Central and South America, Asia and Africa.

Chinese authorities have previously said there are centres outside China run by local volunteers, not Chinese police officers, that aim to help Chinese citizens renew documents and offer other services that were disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SBS News contacted the office of the China Ambassador in Australia on Sunday for comment but is yet to receive a response.
SBS News also put questions to the Australian Federal Police, who did not directly refer to the Safeguard Defenders reports but said the AFP was “aware of the media reports relating to these matters” though would not comment any further.

AFP Deputy Commissioner Investigations Reece Kershaw addressed the matter in a Senate Estimates hearing in November when he said he did not believe the Sydney “contact point” was active, without going into further detail on this or any other Chinese police presence within Australia.

What are the fears?

According to Safeguard Defenders, such stations are set up by police jurisdictions in areas where there are significant overseas Chinese communities.
The December report stated that while the centres are not directly run by central authorities, “some statements and policies are starting to show a clearer guidance from the central government in encouraging their establishment and policies”.

Safeguard Defenders has said while the stations are primarily set up to conduct a series of seemingly administrative tasks to aid overseas Chinese in their community of residence abroad, “they also serve a far more sinister and wholly illegal purpose”.

When releasing the September report, the organisation said the centres were “tracking and pursuing targets indicated by the local Public Security Bureau or Procuratorate in China”.
Safeguard Defenders also said Chinese police “persuaded” 230,000 claimed fugitives to return to China “voluntarily” between April 2021 and July 2022, while admitting not all the targets had committed any crime.
A new law recently adopted in China establishes full extra-territoriality over Chinese and foreigners globally for some specific crimes.
Researcher and journalist Vicky Xu, who has conducted extensive research on China’s “re-education” of its Uyghur minority, previously told SBS News the Chinese government and its supporters had harassed, targeted and intimidated her.
She said she’d been followed since moving to Australia and speaking out on human rights.

Ms Xu said supporters of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had attempted to silence criticism by scaring institutions from inviting journalists, researchers or analysts whose views of China did not align with its party line.

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