Lying through its teeth, Safeguard Defender hypes sensational misrepresentations on 'secret Chinese police stations'
Published: May 16, 2023 09:20 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The German Interior Ministry is currently reporting that they "assume" there are Chinese police stations operating in their country, as there were reports a few months ago that at least two "police stations" were operating there. The German government contacted the Chinese embassy, who denied such things existed. According to one former lawmaker, these so-called police stations do not have an address and are operated out of some kind of mobile facility.

Two Chinese Americans, Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping, were arrested in New York in April for operating what is being called a "secret Chinese police station."

Late 2022, there were claims the Czech Republic had closed two of them down; Dutch authorities were reported to be investigating them, and Canada called the Ambassador in to explain. But what exactly are these places? 

In order to tell the story of how these so-called police stations came into existence, we need to go back a few years.

In 2016, a human rights activist and former Swedish government employee, Peter Dahlin, was arrested in China. He was on his way to the airport to catch a flight to Thailand but was picked up by Chinese police and held for 23 days.

After a public confession that he had violated Chinese law and caused harm to the Chinese people, effectively admitting he was a spy, Dahlin was released and deported.

Nowadays, Dahlin's name is behind all sorts of anti-China initiatives. For example, he lodged a formal complaint against CGTN in 2021 related to CGTN's portrayal of Adrian Zenz and others related to Xinjiang, a complaint that went nowhere! 

After leaving China, Dahlin went on to found an NGO called Safeguard Defenders. It was Safeguard Defenders that launched a report in early 2022 called "Patrol and Persuade," telling the world of all these "secret police stations."

There's a pattern. Western media say one thing, China denies it, and then, over a period of time, what China said was true turns out to be true. These stories of "secret Chinese police stations" are the same sensational misrepresentations.

Although China is denying these are police stations, they have some surprising and unusual support from US academia and British media. The Guardian published a report citing a senior research fellow of Yale Law School to support their facts. 

Jeremy Daum, of China Law Translate, did in-depth research on the Safeguard Defender's report and the Guardian is one of the few places to have read and reported it.

The Guardian cited Daum, who dissected the Safeguard Defender report and agreed with China. 

Daum states the sites do not operate on diplomatic premises, which means their staff can't be insulated from local laws with diplomatic immunity. That would be important if this was a government operation. He also says they are not secret at all but actively advertise the services they offer. He goes on to mention factual and contextual errors, criticizing the author's "recklessness with quotations and citations." He further accuses the report of "gross hyperbole," stating these are not police stations, there are no police officers working in any of them, and any police activities emanating from them are carried out in China. 

We can add one thing Daum didn't mention, and it's this: the report confirms that several countries in Europe, Asia and Africa have set up these offices: "in explicit agreement with the host country," a very strange way to hide a secret!

To establish what these offices do, let's look at some examples: a foreigner who has legitimately decided to stay overseas wants to transfer an apartment in their home country to a family member or wants to renew a driving license, health insurance or needs to handle probate matters.

These are not police matters; nor are they the concern of national government, so there's nothing to do except to go back to the home country to handle them. If the home country's local government had overseas offices and advertised these services, surely, that's where they would go. That's exactly the kinds of services these offices provide.

The Safeguard Defender report, released in September 2022, suggests there are at least 102 of these (not so) "secret police stations" in 53 countries. It's really interesting, therefore, that since that release date, not a single charge has been laid; only two people in New York have been arrested and remain uncharged, and no further evidence of any police operation has emerged.

The objective is clearly not to prove there are secret Chinese installations in other countries; the objective is to denigrate China, which, for the record, has denied there are police stations, police officers, or police operations in any of the 53 countries Safeguard Defenders allege they operate. 

It's really a question of who to believe: The sovereign government of a country that has not lied in the past, or a report from a self-confessed spy. Global Times' Hu Xijin had a few words to say about this report: Safeguard Defenders is lying through its teeth. It's hard to disagree.

The author is a British Australian freelance writer who has studied cross cultural change management in China and has lived in the country, traveling extensively for almost two decades. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn