Home » The eleven Chinese police stations that scare Italy: investigate the intelligence

The eleven Chinese police stations that scare Italy: investigate the intelligence

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The eleven Chinese police stations that scare Italy: investigate the intelligence

One hundred and two “police stations” around the world. Eleven in Italy between Prato, Florence, Milan, Rome, Bolzano, Venice and Sicily. An investigation that has been going on for about a year by our intelligence to understand exactly what work they do: because in all the official documents it is written that the offices that China has opened all over the world, but in Italy more than elsewhere, they only serve to speed up bureaucratic procedures (“we make licenses” they said) but the common suspicion, even among our 007s, is that those offices are also used for something else. Spying on Chinese citizens overseas. To control the flow of money between Asia and our country. But in some cases also to convince Chinese citizens to return to their homeland using non-legitimate methods, without going through cooperation treaties. In at least two cases, in Italy, two men living in Tuscany were allegedly forced to return to China because they were ready to take their family members. Since then their traces have been lost. The case of the Chinese stations scattered around the world was triggered by the NGO Safeguard Defenders which has published a report in recent days – bounced on the pages of theEspresso in Italy and yesterday of Guardian – to denounce what had already exploded for some time: only in our country two parliamentary interpellations had been presented. “And we are still waiting for answers” denounces the parliamentarian of the Democratic Party, Lia Quartapelle, which indicates that Italy is the G7 country most involved in this operation. And how our police forces have signed official agreements unlike what happens abroad.

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“It’s a secret station of the Chinese police.” Bars on the windows and dark glass, in Prato’s Chinatown, offices that have been abandoned for weeks.

by Andrea Vivaldi

A capillary network

But what are these offices doing? Officially, it was said, they take care of the paperwork. Passports, licenses. According to the agreements signed, it is also possible that they work in parallel with the Italian police even if this has not happened since before the lockdown. Republic has come to know, however, that our intelligence has been carrying out some investigations since last spring because too many things do not add up, in Italy and abroad.

It all started with Beijing’s massive campaign to combat fraud by Chinese citizens residing abroad – thanks to which 210,000 Chinese were already “convinced” to return home last year – the NGO traced the origin of these stations. Codename: “110 Overseas”, from the police emergency number in China. A network now present in 53 countries. The vast majority of offices were set up starting in 2016: well before, therefore, the Covid. All report to four security departments in as many Chinese cities: Nantong, Qingtian, Wenzhou and Fuzhou. Among those forced to return home there are also targets of Operation Fox Hunt, the campaign launched in 2014 by President Xi Jinping to go and recapture corrupt Party officials who have fled abroad. Eleven thousand operations in 120 countries from 2014 to today. Mostly through illegal methods of persuasion. In 2018, out of 1,335 returns, only 17 people returned to China through extradition channels.

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From Beijing it is impossible to get an answer. Phones ring for hours. On the other side of the handset you wait to have your ears pounded with that sound reminiscent of old 56k modems. Republic contacted four numbers of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security asking for explanations: in two weeks no response to our messages left on the answering machine. The only one, always the same, was provided by the various ones Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman in some press conferences: “What have been called ‘police stations’ are actually service centers for overseas Chinese. Due to Covid, a large number of Chinese nationals are unable to return to China in time for services such as driving license renewal. So the competent authorities have opened an online platform for their issuance. The centers aim to help Chinese people with these bureaucratic matters. The people who work in these offices are community volunteers locals. Not cops.” However, it is not clear why this work cannot be carried out by embassies or consulates. This applies to Italy as well as to the rest of the world.

Forced returns

Among the cases reported by the NGO there is, for example, that of a Chinese citizen forced to return by agents working undercover in a station in a suburb of Paris. And two other exiles, forcibly repatriated from Europe: one in Serbia, the other in Spain. Investigations have started in at least 13 countries. In the Netherlands, two structures, in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, have been declared illegal and closed. Wang Jingyu, a dissident living in the Netherlands, said he was called hundreds of times in February this year from a number that matches that of a station set up by the Fuzhou police. “They told me to go to the Rotterdam police station to turn myself in and to think about my parents in China.”

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There are three suspicious stations in the UK: two in London, in the districts of Hendon and Croydon, and one in Glasgow. One is registered as a real estate agency, the other as an office. The Scottish one is instead officially a restaurant. If you go to Hendon, Hunter Realty shares the building with a law firm called New World Law Associates. The head of both agencies, if you consult the British company register and if you cross-reference him with the resumes on LinkedIn, is always the same: Richard Huang, alias Shao Zhong Huang. The employees who work there confirm that Huang is their boss, but at the same time deny any involvement in illegal activities. There is no evidence that any illegal incidents took place at these suspicious sites, but British police are hard at work. Even from the United States there is concern: last month the director of the FBI Christopher Wray he said: “It is outrageous to think that the Chinese police are trying to settle, for example, in New York, without proper coordination. This violates sovereignty and circumvents the standard processes of judicial cooperation and law enforcement.”

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