There are roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, but one police station in particular should alarm us above all others.
The station in question is located in New York City, but it’s not run by the NYPD or the sheriff’s office. Nor does any U.S. federal agency administer it.
Instead, it’s run by China.
According to a new report from Asian human rights group Safeguard Defenders, the station in New York City is one of dozens of police outposts China maintains overseas, supposedly “to combat the growing issue of fraud and telecommunication fraud by Chinese nationals living abroad.”
“Chinese authorities claim that from April 2021 to July 2022, 230,000 nationals had been ‘persuaded to return’ to face criminal proceedings in China,” the Safeguard Defenders report read.
“This campaign, which started on a humble scale in 2018, has developed alongside the establishment of overseas Chinese police ‘service stations,’ sometimes called ‘110 Overseas’ after the national police emergency phone number, now found in dozens of countries across five continents.”
Local media is now step-by-step investigating many of these stations, with SD’s help, and we have collected lots of data on many of them, to push understanding about these stations further.
— Safeguard Defenders (保护卫士) (@SafeguardDefend) September 23, 2022
The New York station is administered by the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau, a law enforcement agency based out of a metropolis in Fujian Province, China.
While the stated intent of the organization is to go after fraudsters, Canada’s National Post noted critics there say they’re “part of an alleged attempt by the country’s security state to keep an eye on the Chinese-Canadian diaspora.”
Three of the stations are based in Toronto. Canada’s Globe and Mail visited them, all of which were in heavily Chinese communities in the city.
“One address in Markham was a private home, while the other was a mall full of small Chinese businesses and restaurants. The third property, in a business park near a highway, is owned by the Canada Toronto FuQing Business Association, a federally incorporated non-profit,” the paper noted.
China has insisted that the “110 Overseas” stations were wholly benign.
Speaking with Chinese state media in February, Fuzhou Public Safety Bureau head Wang Xizhang said his office was providing “efficient, high-quality and convenient services to overseas Chinese” while “cracking down on crimes and illegal activities.”
Other services that the “110 Overseas” stations reportedly provide is helping Chinese citizens renew driver’s licenses or file local police reports.
As you can imagine, there are serious issues with taking this at face value.
As Safeguard Defenders’ report noted, some of the methods China uses to “persuade” alleged criminals to come home include retaliating against innocent family members, including depriving the children of suspects abroad the right to education and pressuring other relatives “through means of intimidation, harassment, detention or imprisonment” to get the individuals to return.
“Whether the targets are dissidents, corrupt officials or low-level criminals, the problem remains the same: The use of irregular methods — often combining carrots with sticks — against the targeted individual or their family members in China undermines any due process and the most basic rights of suspects,” the report read.
“The described treatment of targets, their families and even wider community as suspected criminals — in some cases even in the absence of any factual accusation as emerges from the ‘nine forbidden countries’ — further deprives them of the right to be considered innocent until proven otherwise and the right to a fair trial, and also institutes a far-reaching ‘guilt by association’ paradigm.”
The process also disregards international norms regarding extradition agreements and due process.
“Despite China’s insistence on the establishment of bilateral extradition treaties or other mechanisms of judicial cooperation … it rarely uses these legal international procedures,” the report noted.
Finally, China has a history of using state organs to keep tabs on nationals overseas. Last month, the United Nations released a long-delayed report on human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province. Given the damning nature of what the U.N. found, one of the revelations that went mostly unnoticed was the lengths to which Beijing went in order to silence Uyghurs and other dissidents abroad.
“The Chinese authorities continue to openly criticize victims and their relatives now living abroad for speaking about their experiences in [Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region], discrediting stories that are made public,” the report read. “Patterns of intimidations, threats and reprisals were consistently highlighted by interviewees.”
This kind of intimidation is hardly limited to Uyghurs, either. A 2021 report from non-profit journalistic outlet ProPublica detailed how the long arm of Beijing extends to spying on Chinese students on U.S. college campuses using a network of informants.
With that track record, are we to expect that these “110 Overseas” law enforcement outposts will limit themselves to cracking down on fraudsters and helping Chinese nationals renew their driver’s licenses? Please.
For once, we’ve found a very good reason to defund — and dismantle — the police, even if it’s just one outpost.
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