17:35 / 04.12.2022.

Author: Branko Lozančić

Interior Ministry says there are no illegal Chinese police in Croatia

Croatian and Chinese police

Croatian and Chinese police

Foto: Zarko Basic / PIXSELL

Croatian police have no information about the existence or operation of illegal Chinese police stations in Zagreb or Croatia, the Ministry of the Interior announced today, following a CNN article about the presence of Chinese police in at least 53 countries around the world, including Croatia.

Referring to the non-governmental organization Safeguard Defenders, which monitors the state of human rights in China, the American television network reported that there are more than a hundred Chinese police stations in the world that monitor, harass and sometimes repatriate Chinese citizens living in exile.

China is doing this on the basis of bilateral security agreements between Europe and Africa, adds CNN, mentioning Croatia, Serbia and Romania.

The ministry said that Chinese police officers only stayed in Croatia for easier communication with Chinese tourists, and they assess cooperation with China as professional and positive.

“Neither from its own knowledge, nor from the knowledge of the agencies it cooperates with, does the police directorate have any information about the existence or operation of illegal police stations in Zagreb or Croatia,” Jelena Bikić, the spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry told the HINA news agency.

She added that on the basis of bilateral agreements, Chinese police officers were in Croatia "with the aim of facilitating the communication of Croatian colleagues with tourists from China, for a period of one month".

Chinese police officers have been participating in the Croatian Safe Tourist Destination project during the summer months since 2018. At that time, a total of six Chinese police officers stayed in Croatia, and a year later eight of them. During 2020 and 2021, no Chinese police officers stayed in Croatia, and this year there were eight of them, according to the Ministry.

Furthermore, the cooperation of the Croatian police, if necessary, is realized through the Chinese envoy at the Chinese embassy in Zagreb in charge of military and police cooperation.

“The entire cooperation can be described as professional and positive,” said Bikić.

Madrid-based human rights group Safeguard Defenders says it has found evidence that China operates 48 additional police stations abroad since the group first revealed the existence of 54 such stations in September.

A new report called "Patrol and Convince" focuses on the scale of the network and examines the role that joint police initiatives between China and several European countries, including Italy, Croatia, Serbia and Romania, have played in the expansion of China's overseas outposts.

Among the new claims made by the group is that a Chinese national was forced to return home by operatives working undercover at a Chinese overseas police station in the suburbs of Paris, recruited specifically for the purpose, in addition to earlier revelations that two other Chinese were forcibly returned from Europe one in Serbia, the other in Spain.

Beijing has denied having an undeclared police force outside its territory, and its Foreign Ministry told CNN in November: “We hope the relevant parties will stop exaggerating to create tensions. Using this as an excuse to smear China is unacceptable.”

China has argued that the facilities are administrative centers, set up to help Chinese expatriates with tasks such as renewing their driver's licenses.

China also said the offices are a response to the COVID pandemic, which left many citizens in other countries unable to renew their identity documents.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the overseas stations are staffed by volunteers, but in the meantime it has emerged that in some cases they are people employed on multi-year contracts.

Unreported consular activities outside of a country's official diplomatic missions are highly unusual and illegal, unless the host country has given its express consent, according to CNN.

The suggestion that there is widespread repression of Chinese citizens in foreign countries comes at a crucial time for a nation grappling with its own unrest at home, amid fatigue from the country's restrictive Covid-19 policies as leader Xi Jinping's third term in power begins, reported CNN.

Source: HRT

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