China opens 'police station' to spy on citizens in Israel – report

Safeguard Defenders says the police stations, most of which are in Europe, are used to harass and silence Chinese nationals and dissidents living abroad.

 Officers of the People's Armed Police stand guard outside the Museum of the Communist Party of China that was opened ahead of the 100th founding anniversary of Party in Beijing, China June 25, 2021. (photo credit:  REUTERS/THOMAS PETER)
Officers of the People's Armed Police stand guard outside the Museum of the Communist Party of China that was opened ahead of the 100th founding anniversary of Party in Beijing, China June 25, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/THOMAS PETER)

China has opened a police station in Israel to spy on Chinese nationals abroad, according to the NGO Safeguard Defenders.

The station is one of 110 around the world cited by the Madrid-based organization, which seeks to support civil society groups and human-rights lawyers in Asia.

The latest update to the list of “stations” includes an unknown location of the Nantong Police.

Safeguard Defenders cited a news report from the Chinese news site Our Jiangsu on April 29, 2020, describing a meeting between the Nantong Police and Overseas Chinese Linkage Service Centers in which “Xu Weisong from the Israeli workstation,” among others, participated.

“The Nantong City Overseas Police and Overseas Chinese Linkage Service Center is an important link between Nantong and the international community and safeguards the rights and interests of Nantong overseas,” the report said.

 A police officer poses for a picture in front of a Chinese Communist Party flag at the Museum of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, China September 3, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/FLORENCE LO) A police officer poses for a picture in front of a Chinese Communist Party flag at the Museum of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, China September 3, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/FLORENCE LO)

The police stations, most of which are in Europe, are used to harass and silence Chinese nationals and dissidents living abroad and to persuade them to return to China, Safeguard Defenders said.

Officially, these “service stations” exist to help Chinese residents or tourists in given countries, as part of a diaspora association meant to provide a positive and helpful network abroad. They are used to help with tasks such as renewing driver’s licenses and other documentation, the Chinese Foreign Ministry told CNN in November.

However, these stations may have an alternative role: the persuasion of certain Chinese nationals to return to China. Safeguard Defenders cited specific examples of how these Chinese stations in Spain and Serbia persuaded Chinese nationals to return home.

Chinese authorities have been open about persuading individuals to return, saying this past summer that some 230,000 people labeled as “fugitives” had been “persuaded to return” between April 2021 and July 2022, according to Safeguard Defenders.

The Chinese Embassy in Israel did not respond to inquiries about the station.

Some of the “police stations” have been set up in cooperation with the host country. The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on whether this is the case in Israel.

Last month, FBI Director Christopher Wray said he was “very concerned” about Chinese “police stations” on US soil.

“It is outrageous to think that the Chinese police would attempt to set up shop... without proper coordination,” he said in a Senate hearing. “It violates the sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial and law-enforcement cooperation processes.”

Wray said the “stations” were part of “a clear pattern of the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, exporting their repression right here into the US... We’ve had situations where they’ve planted bugs inside Americans’ cars.”

The Netherlands and Ireland shut down Chinese “police stations” for illegal actions in recent months.

Earlier this year, Chinese students in Israel told The Jerusalem Post they had been approached to collect information for the Chinese Communist Party.

A Chinese official asked students on multiple campuses in Israel to seek out and send Israeli media coverage of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, according to screenshots obtained by the Post.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.