Few people could have missed the revelation from Safeguard Defenders that local Chinese police are running overseas police “service stations." Over the past month, local media outlets have been investigating the illegal centers, and more and more remarkable information is being revealed weekly.
The latest such revelation is the existence of additional stations in Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands. Media outlets in the Netherlands have been able to pinpoint the police outposts “persuading” Chinese residents to return to China to face criminal charges. The illegal police stations circumvent normal legal channels and essentially carry out police work on foreign soil.
With growing attention to illegal Chinese police activity, governments are starting to respond. A committee in the Canadian Parliament is set to hold hearings on the matter, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are launching an investigation. In Spain, the Ministry of the Interior has launched an investigation. In Ireland, the government is requesting information from China (and, reportedly, the sign outside the Chinese police station in Dublin has "disappeared").
Yet for all the different actions being taken, there's a marked lack of coordination, with different countries taking different actions. This risks undermining these counteractions.
The West, as usual, is acting like a herd of cats, rather than in a coordinated, planned manner. And a coordinated response is needed.
Our report showed that the various Chinese police jurisdictions that have set up overseas stations operate in different ways and that the program is still in its early stages. Although the campaign started with 10 "pilot provinces," more provinces are set to join the policing effort.
Once the regime analyzes how such stations operate and which tactics work best, we're likely to see more structured operations on a grander scale—that is, unless Beijing is met with a strong response and abandons plans to expand its long-arm policing.
A timely response now, before additional plans are made in Beijing, can change the regime's future policy.
More countries need to move forward with "foreign agent registries." The existence of these registries would have caused the illegal Chinese stations to be shut down right away. They're manned by Chinese residents in the target countries, operating as foreign agents for the Chinese regime. With increased disinformation by foreign agents, coupled with this type of transnational repression, the need for such registries has never been stronger.
In addition, security police need to work systematically on these issues. Hotlines need to be established for victims to report such transgressions with their identities well-protected. And finally, information needs to be made available in those countries on an annual basis to map how China engages in such behavior and how its tactics change.
These actions—which are actually the minimum needed—must be accomplished in a well-orchestrated, coordinated manner by the United States, Canada, the UK, the EU, Australia, and other allies facing the same threat. It's in such a coordinated move that the real strength behind these countermeasures lies.