The UK government has ordered China to shut unofficial police stations operating on British soil, Security Minister Tom Tugendhat told parliament on Tuesday.
The Foreign Office “told the Chinese Embassy that any functions related to such ‘police service stations’ in the UK are unacceptable and that they must not operate in any form,” a written statement said.
The embassy “responded that all such stations have closed permanently”, it added.
British police began investigations after the human rights group Safeguard Defenders reported their existence in the UK, Tugendhat said.
According to the group, they were officially set up to provide administrative services but were also used “to monitor and harass diaspora communities and, in some cases, to coerce people to return to China outside of legitimate channels”, he added.
Tugendhat said police visited each location identified by Safeguard Defenders and “have not, to date, identified any evidence of illegal activity on behalf of the Chinese state across these sites”.
“We assess that police and public scrutiny have had a suppressive impact on any administrative functions these sites may have had,” he added.
“However, these ‘police service stations’ were established without our permission and their presence… will have worried and intimidated those who have left China and sought safety and freedom here in the UK,” Tugendhat said.
In April, The Times newspaper reported that Chinese businessman Lin Ruiyou, with links to the ruling Conservative party, operated a food delivery business in the London suburb of Croydon that doubled as an undeclared Chinese police station.
Beijing’s embassy in London denied the Times report at the time and warned against “false accusations” spread by the media.
Similar operations have been investigated in the United States, Canada and several European countries.
US authorities in April arrested two men for allegedly setting up one such outpost in New York and charged dozens of Chinese security officials over a campaign to monitor and harass US-based dissidents.
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