It has been known since the Communists’ victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949 that the Beijing regime promotes radical persecution and surveillance of its citizens within its borders. Recent investigations, however, show the scope of this witch hunt by China in other countries as well.
Last week, the US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, disclosed the existence of a lawsuit in the Court of the Eastern District of New York, in which the US government brought charges against seven people who allegedly worked for Beijing for threatening, harassing and forcing a US resident to return to China.
According to Garland, two of the accused were arrested the week before last. “The prosecution alleges that the defendants, working under the direction of the government of the People’s Republic of China, engaged in a campaign of harassment, threats, surveillance and intimidation with the aim of coercing the victim to return to China,” the prosecutor said. general at a press conference.
Garland explained that the defendants threatened and harassed the victim’s family in both the United States and China. “The government of China forced a nephew of the victim to travel to the United States to convey the regime’s threats to her son. Defendants threatened the victim , saying that ‘going back and surrendering is the only way out’”, explained the prosecutor.
“They made it clear that the harassment would not stop until the victim returned to China ” Garland said.
The lawsuit released by the US Department of Justice corroborates the findings of a report published in September by the Spanish human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders.
According to the study, between April 2021 and July of this year, Chinese security forces “persuaded” 230 1,000 people who had left China to return to the country “voluntarily” – although Beijing claims that the objective is to get them to settle accounts with the Justice, there are several reports of persecution of people who have not committed any crime.
Many had simply moved to nine countries where Beijing has ruled that living is prohibited unless the citizen has “good reasons”: Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia ja, Philippines and Indonesia. The argument is that these countries have “serious” problems with fraud in the telecommunications sector and fraud in general.
Safeguard Defenders cited the case of a Chinese woman who lived in the capital Cambodian, Phnom Penh, and who in March of this year was notified by the authorities to return to the country. She claimed that she was not suspected of any crime and was just working as a restaurant owner in Cambodia, but China argued that she had an obligation to return because the Southeast Asian country was on the “no-go” list.
In early May, the woman’s name was placed on a list of suspected telecommunications fraudsters and authorities threatened to cut off water and electricity to her mother’s house.[…]
The mother’s home was spray-painted with the message “home of a fraudster”, a police notice was posted on the front of the property and the mother was guided by the village council to persuade her daughter to come back. Safeguard Defenders could not say whether the woman who was in Cambodia later returned to China.
According to the Spanish NGO, other common methods to force a “voluntary” return are to deny the children of the “target” the right to education in China and threats of lawsuits for “guilt by association” (similar to the North Korean model) against family members residing in Chinese territory.
Relatives who do not help to exert pressure for the return are investigated and punished by police authorities or the internal police of the Communist Party.
Disregard for “adequate procedures”
Safeguard Defenders pointed out that Beijing has at least “overseas police service centers” that help in this work of persecution of Chinese established in other countries. Two of them are in Brazil, in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Last week, the Dutch news program RTL Nieuws and the investigative journalist collective Follow the Money published a investigation that shows that the Chinese police have maintained two such offices in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, since at least 2018.
These units were formed without informing the Dutch government, and “there are strong indications that the agencies are used to pressure Chinese dissidents,” according to the two media outlets.
Safeguard Defenders emphasized in his September report that China ignores bilateral mechanisms for the return of citizens, as the use of irregular methods allows it to circumvent international rules, such as the United Nations conventions on torture and for the protection of refugees.
“[…] The disregard for the use of adequate channels and processes in international relations is blatant. Despite China’s insistence on establishing bilateral extradition treaties or other mechanisms of judicial cooperation – which serve both a specific propaganda purpose to legitimize the Chinese Communist Party-controlled judicial system, and to fuel the fear factor about the growing number of individuals fleeing China –, rarely uses these international legal procedures”, warned the Spanish NGO.
To make matters worse, Safeguard Defenders recalled that a new Chinese law, which will enter effective December 1, “establishes full extraterritoriality on Chinese and foreigners globally for certain crimes (fraud, telecom fraud, online scams, etc.)”. In other words: persecution in other countries will intensify and may also target citizens of other nationalities.