China refutes NGO’s claims of enforced repatriation squads
China’s Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. Image: Wu Hao/ EPA

China refutes NGO’s claims of enforced repatriation squads

Says they are just “service centres for Chinese abroad”

Sometimes it is so much better to say nothing. When this latest controversy broke, at the end of September, Iniciativa Liberal waved the findings of human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders in parliament – describing three illegal police stations operating on Portuguese territory, in place to forcibly repatriate Chinese residents here who were fugitives from their homeland regime.

At the time, journalists checking out the locations were told “there is nothing to see here. This is a garage”, or this is an office/ business. 

Now China’s Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin admits the sites “are actually service centres for Chinese abroad”.

In other words, they do exist. The Chinese however see them as centres that serve to support “a large number of Chinese citizens” who are unable to return to China due to the Covid-19 pandemic, for example in renewing Chinese driving licences…

So why didn’t the garage owner in Vila do Conde tackled on this subject just say this to the journalists and photographers following up on the story? Why did he deny the existence of anything other than a car repair shop?

This is where Safeguard Defenders’ thesis would seem to gain credence, particularly now that authorities in Holland are officially following up on the claims that two illegal Chinese police stations have been established in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

As Dutch newspapers have suggested, if these locations are indeed offering diplomatic assistance to Chinese nationals, why are they not registered with the Netherlands government?

A young Chinese man in Amsterdam has been talking to authorities in Holland, alleging China sent agents to Amsterdam to try and force him back to China where he is said to face multiple charges for comments made over social media.

Authorities here have intimated that they will ‘look into the NGOs findings’ although Lusa reports that it cannot receive an answer from the Attorney General’s Office over whether this means an official inquiry has been opened (see below).

Today, the European Commission has stressed that it is up to Member States to investigate these claims – and that it “can mobilise support” for countries, if necessary.

Said the EU executive’s spokesperson for home affairs Anitta Hipper today: “We have seen reports about alleged police squads that the Chinese government has set up in EU member states and at the moment the Commission has no specific information about this situation”, albeit this “is a matter of national sovereignty”. “It is up to Member States to investigate these allegations”, she said.

UPDATE: Since posting this story online, the Attorney General’s Office has confirmed that investigations are underway by DIAP (the central department of investigation and penal action) into the case of alleged illicit functioning of “Chinese police stations” in Portugal.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com