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Overseas Chinese police ‘contact points’: friendly citizen support or a risk to human rights and int

By Yumna Zafar

November 2022

Foreign police presence is not unheard of, but a recent report about Chinese Police in Australia is concerning for some. This is not the first time China has been accused of setting-up illegal police forces in foreign countries with an ambiguous agenda. Investigations by a Spanish-based human rights group, Safeguard Defenders, have found stations in Dublin, Madrid, USA and the Netherlands.

These stations or ‘contact points’ claim to help Chinese immigrants with diplomatic services like passport, visa lodgment and other legal matters. Whilst the Chinese Embassy has not made any comments on the issue, it is widely speculated that the police’s aim is to encourage Chinese migrants to return home for a number of reasons including punishments and feuds. This is hugely concerning for the wellbeing of foreign Chinese residents and the law of the countries they are based in. The ambiguity surrounding the motives and expansion of Chinese police could have safety implications and rupture the political relationships between nations. Chinese police seem to be specifically targeting fugitives and have resorted to dubious measures to achieve their goal. This includes harassment and surveillance of Chinese nationals in New York City. It is this fear that troubles human rights groups and has garnered their attention.

In Australia, there have been calls to make the process transparent and legal. Owing to Australia’s deeply entrenched trading and political alliances with China, perhaps the hope to find a harmonious and legal path to operate foreign police in the country is not far-fetched. From previous investigations in the Netherlands, China has been urged to adopt diplomatic measures and should it need to pursue fugitives it should seek the cooperation of hosts and respect their regulations. In Australia, the Chinese contact point is linked to the Wenzhou region but upon investigation no clear links were found. Chinese investigations could potentially be used to track dissidents or individuals involved in corruption and political crimes, but no official statement has been issued by the Chinese Embassy to confirm or contradict this conjecture. However, Chinese state media defend their ‘110 Overseas’ system as a means for protecting their citizens abroad. But it still leaves considerable doubt about the elusive nature of these contact points.

The non-governmental organisation, Safeguard Defenders has noted the forced return of at least 8 Chinese-Australian residents to China. Australia’s inability to note and keep track of similar cases has elicited concerns from minorities and ethnic groups who may become the next targets of these operations. This has increased pressure on the government to instil measures that can rightfully protect their citizens whilst also appeasing the requirements of other countries.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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