Countering Chinese Overseas Police Influence Operations
the specter of CCP covert operations...
Chinese overseas police stations known as ‘police service centers’ are a controversial component of China’s hybrid influence strategy. These Chinese overseas police outposts form a global policing network known as ‘Overseas 110’ extending China’s influence through diaspora communities. These extraterritorial outposts underscore fears of Chinese Communist party (CCP) repression of Chinese dissidents abroad.
Overseas Police Influence
Since the publication of a report by the Spanish NGO Safeguard Defenders, which identified 54 overseas police service centers operated by Chinese police from Fuzhou and Qingtian county, existence of these outposts have been confirmed by Dutch and Irish authorities. The Netherlands has confirmed two unofficial ‘police stations’ which the Dutch foreign ministry says are illegal. The Chinese foreign ministry rejects that position. A Chinese overseas service center operated by the Fuzhou Police in Dublin was ordered to close by Irish authorities; the Chinese government complied with the request. In addition, Portugal is now investigating reports of Chinese police service centers in Lisbon and Porto.
In Australia, a key venue for Chinese competition with the West, China has established an overseas police service center in Sydney. That center was set up by the city of Wenzhou in 2018. China claims these service centers provide administrative support such as renewing visas, passports, and drivers licenses that are usually handled by consular official. The use of police and prospect of applying extraterritorial criminal jurisdiction over dissident Chinese nationals overseas challenges both state sovereignty and international conventions and human rights norms. The RCMP is also investigating the presence of a ’clandestine’ Chinese police station operating in Toronto. Like the others mentioned in various reports, there are concerns these outposts are used to target overseas dissidents.
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In addition to these overseas police service centers, China has mobilized their police to extend influence through police training and assistance missions and more importantly joint overseas patrols. These joint-patrols by sub-national police agencies, such as the
Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau extend China’s hybrid influence and challenge the sovereignty of the states where they operate. These CCP United Front or unrestricted warfare hybrid influence initiatives also compete with efforts to forge support among rival nations, such as NATO and the Five Eyes alliances.
Countering the Threat
It is imperative to reiterate that the Chinese are using a whole of society approach to extend their influence. This includes exploiting disinformation, corruption, transnational crime and illicit economic flows, as well as integrating the police into their comprehensive influence strategy. Local, and national police join the military (People’s Liberation Army – PLA), and all of its components, as well as the Chinese Coast Guard to project both hard and soft power and influence. These efforts directly compete with the efforts of the United States and its Allies-—including NATO and the Five Eyes partners (especially Australia and New Zealand).
While police liaison initiatives are widely embraced by many nations, consider the FBI’s ‘Legats’ or legal attachés or Australian Federal Police (AFP) international liaison missions, these overseas police service centers with direct contact with overseas Chinese communities and foreign nationals and raise the specter of CCP covert operations organized by the United Front Work Department that targets dissidents through the efforts of prominent members of diaspora Communities.
Efforts to counter Chinese police influence can include expanded international law enforcement training by the United States, European Union (CEPOL), and NATO (Stability Policing Centre of Excellence), and the CoESPU – Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units. Next, stability policing can be a powerful adjunct to military efforts, integrating expeditionary policing and law enforcement (Expol) and stability policing into the armamentarium for global security reform. Police and law enforcement should be integrated into the overall global security equation.
NATO, the US, and Australia, should be at the forefront of countering China’s police influence efforts by building a network of police and law enforcement resources to counter Chinese influence operations. Further research and policy analysis should explore these opportunities and seek to integrate these efforts into measure to check corruption, strategic (and transnational organized) crime, and hybrid influence activities.
This essay is the second in a two-part series. The first essay “Chinese Overseas Police: a tool for Influence Operations” ran on 28 October 2022.
John P. Sullivan Retired cop with a doctorate - policing - intelligence - counterterrorism - transnational organized crime - urban operations - hybrid influence