“The joint patrols” of the police with China “are standard memorandums, which also concern other countries. And in fact I can say that those forms of collaboration will no longer be practiced, nor replicated in other forms”. With these words released to the newspaper Il FoglioInterior Minister Matteo Piantedosi raises any doubts about the possibility of restarting the cooperation of joint police patrols between Italy and China.
The intent was then clear: “Those who wanted to introduce them (joint police patrols, ed), perhaps imagined a convenience in collaborating with the institutions of that country”. According to the owner of the Viminale, therefore, the decision to carry on with these agreements was dictated by the desire to forge a stronger relationship between Rome and Beijing. “After all – continued the minister -, this is a government which, as some critically observe, takes the form of sovereignty: could it ever accept that precisely on the front of territorial control there were transfers, albeit potential, of sovereignty?” , asked Piantedosi ironically.
The minister’s words burst into a climate of perplexity and tension, after the report published by the Madrid NGO, Safeguard Defenders, which revealed the existence of 102 Chinese police “stations” worldwide, of which only 11 in Italy. Piantedosi, during question time last December 7 in the Chamber, in answering a question on the opening of Chinese police centers on Italian territory (Magi-Misto-Più Europa), stated that the Department of Public Security “does not know of any authorization” of the activity of Chinese centers dedicated to the handling of administrative procedures in Italy. At the time, however, the owner of the Viminale denied the correlation between the presence of Chinese police centers and the police cooperation agreements and the joint patrols between Italy and China that took place from 2016 to 2019. The patrol operations had stopped at following the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.
What will the government do with Chinese police stations in Italy?
What are Italian-Chinese police patrols?
To understand what these joint police patrols are, one has to rewind the tape to more than six years ago. In 2015, the Italian government signed the agreement on joint patrols between Italian and Chinese security forces in Italian cities with the greatest presence of Chinese citizens, based on “the memorandum of understanding signed in The Hague on September 24 between the Ministry of ‘Interior and the Corresponding Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China,’ reads the Interior Ministry’s website in a article published in May 2016 to promote the initiative that started in that period.
The article also said: “Before landing in Italy, the Chinese policemen underwent training in Beijing held by Italian officers and officials. The joint patrols will begin in the cities of Rome and Milan and will be operationally coordinated by the police headquarters and the provincials of the Carabinieri. The Chinese policemen will serve with their own uniforms to be easily recognizable by their compatriots”.
Because there are Chinese police stations in Italy
The agreement for joint patrols between the Italian and Chinese law enforcement agencies was signed in 2015 (and launched in 2016), in the context of a Europol meeting in The Hague, by the then central director of the criminal police, the prefect Antonino Cufalo, and the director general of the Department for International Cooperation of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, Liao Jinrong.
The agreement made it possible for four consecutive years to see Italian policemen parade in the company of their Chinese colleagues a Rome, Milan, Turin and Venice, but only in areas “of tourist interest to Chinese tourists”. Only since 2018, the patrols have covered the streets of cities such as Prato, or Padua, therefore outside the traditional Chinese tourist circuits, but in areas with a very high density of Chinese immigration.
What is the correlation between “stations” and police patrols
Hence the alarm triggered by Safeguard Defenders. The first unofficial Chinese police station in Italy was in fact established in Milan following a 2015 agreement made with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security on joint patrols, which would have directly contributed to the establishment of “pilot” stations in the Lombard capital in 2016, by the Wenzhou Police. In 2018, shortly after the strengthening of the agreement on joint Italian-Chinese patrolling of the streets of Milan (as well as those of Rome), the public security of Qingtian also set up a “pilot” office in Milan.
There are 11 unauthorized Chinese police stations in Italy
In short, the Lombard capital has been a trailblazer for the operations of police “stations” in Italy: these stations represent a threat to the security and territorial sovereignty of the countries in which they are present, as well as representing a tool for pursuing the government’s hunt Chinese to dissidents.