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Chinese surveillance

China’s secret police stations in the West

The glass-fronted “police outpost” in New York. Platt/Getty

This week, the FBI arrested two men for “running a Chinese police outpost” in New York, says The Wall Street Journal. Under the guise of helping immigrants with menial tasks like renewing their driving licences, the Chinatown centre was essentially “designed to surveil and silence Chinese citizens”. These “police stations” are Beijing’s favourite tool for intimidating students and dissidents who move to America with the “expectation of new freedom” – usually by threatening family members who remain in China. One of the men charged, for example, is accused of helping Beijing track down a Chinese pro-democracy activist living in California. Here’s hoping the FBI continues to crack down on these “Communist police gangs”. The US can’t stop repression in China, but surely we can prevent the Chinese government from “extending its tyranny to America”.

This problem isn’t limited to the US, says Politico. Beijing has similar “police station” setups in London. “And Rome. And Tokyo. And Toronto.” According to one advocacy group, the number of facilities worldwide easily tops 100, in countries everywhere from Argentina to Nigeria. Yet no one seems too bothered. When an Italian MEP asked the European Commission to help shut down these centres, she was told that individual countries were on their own in probing the issue. We need to wake up to “the scale of the problem”. These two arrests barely scratch the surface of Beijing’s enormous programme of “transnational repression”.