The Chinese government has set up two illegal “police stations” in the Netherlands which are used to monitor its citizens abroad, according to Dutch media.
The offices, which the Chinese called “overseas petrol stations”, operated in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, the latter having opened in 2018, according to a joint report by RTL Nieuws and Follow the Money.
“These agencies are illegal,” a Dutch foreign affairs spokesperson said in a statement. “We will investigate exactly what they are doing here and then take appropriate action.”
Watchdog group Safeguard Defenders reported last month that there is also one station in New York and three in Canada.
They are used to help the Chinese Communist Party by cracking down on overseas criminal activity involving Chinese nationals, according to reports.
The stations are set up under the guise of helping with administrative tasks – such as renewing driving licenses and reporting changes in marital status – but accused dissident Wang Jingyu told RTL Nieuws the stations have been used by the Chinese authorities to hunt him down internationally.
Someone claiming to work at Rotterdam station called Mr Wang earlier this year and urged him to return to China, where there is an arrest warrant for him. He told RTL that this person told him to “think of my parents”.
He said someone sent him a picture of a gun with the message, “I’m going to kill you.” He received it in June after protesting outside the Chinese Embassy, he said.
Several bomb threats were also reported in his name, prompting police to raid his home.
The Chinese embassy told RTL that it was not aware of the existence of the police stations. However, the outlet cites Chinese media coverage that reported on a senior embassy official involved in talks about opening Amsterdam train station.
Dutch media reported that the man running the Amsterdam train station was a former policeman in China. The man who runs Rotterdam station is a former soldier in the Chinese army. Other station staff are volunteers who advocate partisan views of the CCP.
In the report by Safeguard Defenders, they said Chinese authorities claimed 230,000 Chinese nationals were successfully “persuaded to return” to China to face criminal charges between April 2021 and July 2022.
These “persuasions” usually involve intimidating or imprisoning family members until the accused dissident returns home.