GT investigates: Who is the black hand behind conspiracy to smear 'Overseas Police Service Station' and attack China?
Published: Sep 10, 2023 07:13 PM
Black Hand Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

It was reported recently that the US Department of Justice arrested two Chinese residents in New York on suspicion of setting up a "secret police station" in Manhattan for the Chinese government to suppress so-called "dissidents." According to the indictment, they were arrested for operating an "Overseas Police Service Station," which is, in fact, just a volunteer service platform for overseas Chinese in Manhattan, New York. 

The news caught the attention of overseas Chinese groups. Many overseas Chinese who have sought help from such volunteer service platforms expressed their incomprehension and indignation, and called for justice to be served for such volunteer service platforms on the internet. However, the volunteer service platforms, named "Overseas Police Service Stations," are shuttering their doors due to the vicious defamation, causing great inconveniences for overseas Chinese nationals.

Analysts pointed out that the US, which calls itself the "beacon of human rights," is once again ignoring the fact and conflating issues, leading many to suspect that such actions have a nefarious purpose behind them. 

Through an in-depth investigation, Global Times reporters found out that Safeguard Defenders, an organization funded by an ex-con with a criminal record and engaged in aggressive anti-China defamation, is behind this conspiracy as part of its efforts to smear and attack China. Some Western politicians and media outlets have deliberately spread a false report by the Safeguard Defenders on the so-called "secret police station" as a means to attack China. 

People familiar with the matter told the Global Times that the functions of the Chinese police force in China are different from those in the West, and the Safeguard Defenders' bad faith actions to deliberately encourage misguided public opinion will be despised by the international community.

What is the "Overseas Police Service Station"? Who are the conspirators? What are their dark purposes? In this piece, Global Times reporters will unravel these mysteries and shed a light on the vicious plot of the organization.

Volunteer platforms to assist overseas Chinese

"Overseas Police Service Stations" are volunteer platforms established by overseas Chinese groups to assist Chinese nationals in seeking services from competent and relevant departments in China online, according to public materials. 

For example, many overseas Chinese who have worked abroad for many years need to return to China to undergo physical examinations to extend their driving licenses. However, due to prohibitive costs, as well as being time- and energy-consuming to return to China, they often turn to local overseas Chinese groups, hoping for alternative assistance from relevant departments in China.

At the request of overseas Chinese, some enthusiastic overseas Chinese groups and chambers of commerce voluntarily founded such mutual-aid platforms.

Why then would such voluntary service centers be labeled "police service stations"? In China, the formal name of the police force is the "People's Police," whose mission is to serve the people. Therefore, different from their counterparts in many other countries, the Chinese police are also tasked with fulfilling many diverse administrative functions such as approving and issuing household registration documents, the issuance of driving license, as well as traditional law enforcement. 

The term "Overseas Police Service Station" alludes to the voluntary service stations' active role in bridging the gap between overseas Chinese in need of services and Chinese police-designated service delivery such as the extension of driving licenses.

Mr Lu, an overseas Chinese national who has been conducting business in a foreign country for over 10 years, has much to say about these volunteer service platforms established by overseas Chinese groups. 

In September 2021, Lu was in a dilemma, as he could return to China to undergo a physical examination needed to renew his expiring driving license due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. A packed business schedule, coupled with the exorbitant cost and time demands of a round trip to and from China, was also prohibitive factors. So he had to turn to the Overseas Chinese Association. 

The person in charge of the Overseas Chinese Association told him of the decision to establish a service platform to help bridge communication and service delivery between overseas Chinese and relevant Chinese governmental departments. This, he was informed, had been necessitated by the large number of overseas Chinese in a similar predicament as him. 

"The service platforms provide services free of charge, and the service personnel there are all volunteers. You can apply for a physical examination online through the volunteer service platform," Lu explained.

With the assistance of the service platform, Lu successfully completed the physical examination to help renew his driving license in time.

Lu's experience became increasingly common among overseas Chinese, especially since the end of 2019 and a surging COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in reduced international flights, closed borders, and restricted mobility. For ordinary overseas Chinese, it is both time- and energy-consuming to apply for a physical examination needed to renew their driving licenses in China, hence the need for such volunteer platforms.  

According to statistics, more than 60 million Chinese nationals are living in almost 200 countries and regions around the world, who actively contribute to their host countries' societies and economies. 

Such service platforms have met the practical needs of overseas Chinese, winning extensive praise from overseas Chinese communities worldwide. It is obvious that such stations and similar platforms are volunteer organizations willingly formed by overseas Chinese with the help of local Chinese groups, intended to provide overseas Chinese in need with advise and practical assistance, a source close to the matter told the Global Times. 

Like most countries, the relevant departments of the Chinese government not only handle certificate applications and consultations on site, but also receive application documents remotely. After living and working abroad for extended periods of time, some overseas Chinese are not familiar with online application or submission processes related to their requests in China, as well as not familiar with domestic requirements or procedures, thus face difficulties in handling such submissions unassisted. 

The service stations provide voluntary consultation and assistance, not only solving the urgent needs of local Chinese, but also helping domestic administrative departments serve overseas compatriots. Overseas Chinese are enthusiastic about providing voluntary services to assist their compatriots in the service stations; they are neither paid nor employed by any Chinese authorities, the source said.

The service stations do not have any right to offer any administrative services. Such mutual-aid volunteer platforms formed by overseas Chinese by no means violate international or domestic laws, or infringe on the sovereignty of the host country, the source stressed. 

Mei Jianming, a professor from the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law and former deputy dean of the anti-terrorism department at the People's Public Security University of China, told the Global Times that "serving the people wholeheartedly" is the purpose of China's public security organs. To realize this purpose, the public security organs in China assume two major functions - law enforcement and social service. 

In China, there is a saying that "if you have difficulties, you can go to the police." When ordinary people encounter various problems in their lived, such as not being able to open doors, or needing help to carry gas tanks, they will immediately think of turning to the police for help, which is very different from Western society, Mei said.

The "Overseas Police Service Stations" are actually set up to meet the needs of Chinese expatriates. Because it is different from the Western police system, it is objectively not easily understood by the local people, and subjectively is easy for some people with ulterior motives to fabricate rumors regarding their purpose, he noted.

Vicious anti-China NGO 

Where did the absurd term "secret police station" come from? A quick internet search reveals that the term comes from a report released by the NGO "Safeguard Defenders," in September 2022. The report falsely claimed that these service stations are "secret police stations" and engage in the deliberate misinterpretation of public reports on Chinese media as so-called proof.

Soon after the report was released, a few of countries began to attack and defame these service platforms, and even launched investigations, sought prosecution, and engaged in other law enforcement activities against relevant overseas Chinese leaders.

A source familiar with the infamous Safeguard Defenders pointed out to the Global Times that it is an organization funded by an ex-con with an extensive criminal record and is engaged in aggressive anti-China defamation campaigns, releasing untrustworthy reports to spread rumors about China in an attempt to slander the country. 

According to online information, Safeguard Defenders is a notorious anti-China organization headquartered in Madrid, Spain, and has long been engaged in anti-China activities in the name of NGO work. 

Its leader, Peter Jesper Dahlin, had long been engaged in activities meant to compromise China's national security since 2009, and was investigated and deported by the Chinese law enforcement authority in 2016 for endangering Chinese national security. However, Dahlin has since remained impenitent and stepped up his efforts after being deported, the source said. 

After founding the Safeguard Defenders in Europe in 2016, Dahlin wantonly attacked and defamed China's judicial systems and law enforcement activities, and released so-called investigation reports that distort and slander judicial enforcement activities in China on multiple occasions with a view to take revenge on China. 

Experts have pointed out the inaccuracies and blatant lies in all its reports on China's judicial systems. 

If these "Overseas Police Service Stations" were "secret police stations" as indicated in the so-called report by the Safeguard Defenders or labeled by certain media outlets and western politicians, then China's extensive media coverage of them would be counterintuitive. The Safeguard Defenders has also claimed that these service stations have been established in 53 countries since 2016, widely publicizing this information. Such claims beg the question why such "secret police stations" would go unnoticed by host governments over the last seven years despite being publicized. 

According to the Safeguard Defenders' so-called report, the repatriation of Chinese overseas fugitives to China is also aided by these "Overseas Police Service Stations" rather than by bilateral and multilateral law enforcement cooperation between China and other countries, implying disproportionately great power and influence allegedly possessed and wielded by mere volunteers. 

Mei told the Global Times that some foreign NGOs often have their own positions and preferences. The motivations and position of the Safeguard Defenders are not objective, and the credibility of the so-called report issued by the organization is doubtful.

He pointed out that the Safeguard Defenders may be aware of the differences between the police system in China and those in Western countries, but deliberately use the lack of public awareness to amplify malicious disinformation that leads the misguided public opinion.

Diabolical campaign 

After the so-called report by the Safeguard Defenders was released, some foreign media sources cited the Safeguard Defender's false information in their own reporting, further spreading misinformation among people who don't know the real situation regarding China and the "Overseas Police Service Stations," negatively affecting public opinion. 

Some bad faith actors in the media have directly cited false information and stirred up trouble to increase content consumption through increased circulation or improved audience ratings. A few such media sources, without conducting due diligence or verification, have linked the "Overseas Police Service Stations" to the international law enforcement cooperation conducted by China according to bilateral agreements and international conventions with overseas service stations, and spread rumored that the Chinese police force is engaged in fugitive hunting or other law enforcement activities through these stations.

In an interview with ANSA, famous Italian sinologist Daniel Buligado Colonia strongly refuted the existence of so-called "secret police stations" and noted that individuals working at the "Overseas Police Service Stations" were not police. The sinologist further added that "the Chinese government would not be reckless enough to allow flagrant violations of other countries' sovereignty." 

Overseas Chinese in many countries also support such volunteer service platforms through various channels, and hope that host governments will fully consider the practical difficulties of overseas Chinese in returning to China. They called for an end to speculations around the volunteer service platforms.

Li Wei, an expert on national security at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that for the so-called anti-China political purpose, some officials and politicians in the US and other countries blindly accepted the contents of the report, without conducting investigations or verifying the information contained therein. They actively aligned themselves with the report in order to gain political capital.

Li said that in this era of globalization, the exchanges and cooperation between people of different countries in education, tourism, trade, and other fields are getting closer and closer, and overseas Chinese nationals need more and more services from their own governmental departments. 

The "Overseas Police Service Stations" are keen to provide voluntary services for local overseas Chinese nationals. It is reasonable and legal and should have become a model for overseas Chinese groups in various countries. However, the so-called report which is full of inconsistencies has triggered malicious speculation and political manipulation. The dark motives behind the report should raise people's awareness and be a cause for concern, he warned.