Espionage and illegal activities of the Chinese police in Italy? The government now wants to see clearly

The government led by Giorgia Meloni does not seem to want to let its guard down on the presence of “police stations” Chinese on the Italian territory. After thespeech last December 7 in the Chamber, the Minister of the Interior Matteo Piantedosi returns to the subject again by answering a question from the Brothers of Italy in the question time in the Senate today 12 January. “On the alleged opening of Chinese police stations in Italy, the forces of order are carrying out investigations on various associations, also on intelligence indications, to acquire evidence of any illegality”, said the owner of the Viminale, thus emphasizing what was said last month on the launch of an in-depth analysis of the activities of the centers present in 11 Italian cities.

There are 11 unauthorized Chinese police stations in Italy

“In Milan, Prato and Rome – Piantedosi recalled – the presence of various cultural associations was found to be active mostly in the handling of administrative procedures for the benefit of their compatriots such as the renewal of passports, the issuance of licenses, assistance for injuries and illnesses. Further checks are underway in other cities and any irregularities that emerge will be contested, in coordination with the judicial authority”. The Viminale therefore wants to shed light on the operations of Chinese “police stations” in Italy, after the publication of the report by the Madrid NGO Safeguard Defenders and the various journalistic investigations.

The “persuade to return” method

The suspicion raised is that these stations are active to control the loyalty of the Chinese population abroad and to monitor dissidents, forcing them to return home through threats also to relatives and friends in China. The greatest fear is that these structures also carry out police operations in the territory of a third country.

Masquerading as administrative offices for driving license renewals or for bureaucratic support of Chinese across the border, these counters act as parallel consular offices, in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Hence the alarm: these stations represent a threat to the security and territorial sovereignty of the countries in which they are present, as well as being a tool to pursue the Chinese government’s hunt for dissidents.

Because there are Chinese police stations in Italy

“Monitorship of the utmost attention is underway on the subject – concluded Piantedosi in his speech – whose developments I am personally following, not excluding sanctions in case of illegality”. The owner of the Viminale, while not explicitly citing the progress of the monitoring activities, thus underlines what he already stated in the question time in the Chamber of 7 December, according to which the Department of Public Security “has no authorization” for the activity of Chinese centers dedicated to the handling of administrative procedures in Italy.

Operation ‘Fox Hunt’

Italy is not the only country to host “police stations” administered by personnel from the People’s Republic. At least four Chinese counties – Fuzhou, Qingtian, Nantong and Wenzhou – have set up dozens of overseas police centers, according to state media reports and published public statements in China. These tell of sites in Japan, Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other countries.

Already in May 2019, the People’s Public Security News presented the “innovative establishment of overseas police service centers” of the Qingtian County Public Security Bureau, which provide “convenient services for the vast number of overseas Chinese” in 21 cities in 15 countries, and for which “135 Qingtian-born overseas Chinese leaders and overseas Chinese group leaders were recruited, building a team of more than 1,000 people” coordinated by a “domestic liaison center.”

The alarming presence of police sites around the world has prompted several officials to brand the method of persuading dissidents to return to China as “Operation Fox Hunt”. Abroad, government and intelligence authorities are working to understand the real activity of these Chinese police sites. The New York Times he says last fall the FBI raided a building in New York’s busy Chinatown where a police station set up by the city of Fuzhou is allegedly located. Some US intelligence reports, writes the New York newspaper, describe the Chinese offices as stations that “gather information” and solve crimes abroad without collaborating with local officials.

Espionage and illegal activities of the Chinese police in Italy? The government now wants to see clearly