Portugal joins global probe into illegal Chinese police stations

Portuguese police launched an investigation into China's alleged overseas police "service stations", the Attorney General's Office confirmed to the Expresso newspaper on Thursday.
Representative image
Representative image

WASHINGTON: Portugal became the latest nation to open a probe into allegations that China has been running "illegal police stations" in the country just as Ireland ordered Beijing to shut down its "overseas Chinese police service centre" in Dublin, media reports said.

Portuguese police launched an investigation into China's alleged overseas police "service stations", the Attorney General's Office confirmed to the Expresso newspaper on Thursday.

The authorities are paying "special attention" to the Chinese Embassy in Lisbon after Portuguese lawmakers raised concerns about a report by human rights group -- Safeguard Defenders -- in September that Chinese authorities operate 54 "police stations" overseas, including three in Portugal, RFA reported.

A growing number of governments, including Canada, the UK, Spain and the Netherlands, are investigating reports about Chinese police offices overseas that are accused of coercing emigrants to return home to China to face criminal charges or silencing dissent abroad, RFA reported.

Until now, no cases of immigrants living in Portugal having been forced to travel to China are yet known, the Expresso quoted a police source as saying.

Also on Thursday, Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs ordered the so-called Fuzhou Police Service Overseas Station in Dublin city centre to close, Irish media reported.

The office opened earlier this year and Chinese authorities said it offered services to Chinese citizens in Ireland such as driving license renewals.

However, Ireland's Foreign Ministry said Chinese officials have never sought permission to set up the station in Dublin.

"The Department noted that actions of all foreign states on Irish territory must be in compliance with international law and domestic law requirements," the Irish Times quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

"On this basis, the Department informed the Embassy that the office on Capel Street should close and cease operations."

The Chinese Embassy confirmed that the office has now ceased operations, RFA reported.

The Irish statement came after the Dutch government said it would probe service centers in the Netherlands in response to two reports run by broadcaster RTL Nieuws earlier this week.

"Appropriate action will be taken. We take this very seriously," a Dutch foreign ministry spokesperson told the station.

In an investigation that appeared to confirm earlier allegations by Safeguard Defenders, the RTL reports quoted Dutch lawmakers as calling for the immediate closure of the offices.

Free People's Party MP Ruben Brekelmans said the offices were "another example of the Chinese government's infiltration of the Netherlands."

"The Chinese repression model must not be allowed to infiltrate the Netherlands," Brekelmans said via his Twitter account.

In Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Brenda Lucki described the Chinese overseas service centers in January as "a growing problem," with a probe already under way.

In the UK, the China Research Group of Conservative MPs called for an investigation into "concerning" reports about Chinese police stations. Safeguard Defenders alleged there are three such stations in the U.K. including two in London and one in Glasgow, RFA reported.

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