French police have confirmed that China’s overseas “police service stations” were behind cyberattacks against a Taiwanese Mandarin Learning Center in the European nation. This is another example of Beijing bullying Taiwanese organizations, as well as a show of contempt for other countries’ sovereignty and for international laws and norms.
L’Encrier Chinois, a Chinese-language school that opened in 2005 in Paris, became the second Taiwanese Mandarin Learning Center in France in 2021. The school was targeted by at least three cyberattacks last year, which were reported to French police, who discovered that the attacks originated from China’s overseas police stations.
Overseas Community Affairs Council Minister Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) said that similar cyberattacks by Chinese police service stations have been reported in many countries. An investigation report by Safeguard Defenders, a human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Spain, said that China has at least 102 police service stations in 53 countries.
Although Beijing says the stations were established to help Chinese living abroad to access administrative services, the stations were also found to be assisting Chinese police in covert operations, such as “persuading” Chinese fugitives to return home and monitoring Chinese immigrants.
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took power in 2012, the number of Chinese asylum seekers has surged from 15,362 to 107,864 in 2020, data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees showed. The overseas stations have served as extension organizations for China’s “Fox Hunt” and “Sky Net ” operations targeting Chinese dissidents living abroad to stop their activism under the guise of returning Chinese suspects to China to face criminal charges.
The Safeguard Defenders report said that Beijing claimed 230,000 fraud suspects were “persuaded to return” to China from April 2021 to July last year. However, there is evidence that Chinese police used tactics such as threats, harassment, detention or even imprisonment of family members in China on targets who refuse to comply.
Chinese overseas police stations have become a matter of concern around the world. Many countries, including the US, Canada, Japan, Italy, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, have launched investigations and some stations were ordered to close.
Expressing deep concern, FBI Director Christopher Wray told a US Senate hearing that it was outrageous that the Chinese government would attempt to set up a police presence in the US, saying it “violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial and law enforcement cooperation processes.”
Through those overseas police stations, China is not only employing extrajudicial means to reach targets for law enforcement, but also to carry out political persecution abroad, as well as to spread its influence and propaganda overseas.
Last month, in a protest against China’s illegal overseas police stations, NGO China Human Rights presented evidence that some overseas Chinese who participated in a welcoming ceremony for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) during her transit in the US in 2019 were harassed and even beaten by suspected Chinese overseas police. This incident should serve as a warning for Tsai, especially as she sets off today for her trip to Central America, with stopovers in the US.
The attack on Taiwan’s Mandarin Learning Center in France is just the tip of the iceberg, as Beijing moves to expand its transnational policing operations in non-Chinese communities. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Community Affairs Council have issued alerts to Taiwanese overseas. The bigger challenge for the international community is to detect and eliminate this Chinese transnational authoritarian threat to human rights, international law and democracy.
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