There is uproar in the Commons over reports that operation is linked to Conservative fundraiser.
The United Kingdom says a report of an alleged secret Chinese police station in south London is of “great concern” and that it will not tolerate any attempt by China to harass its citizens.
The Times reported on Wednesday that a Chinese businessman who has organised fund-raising dinners for the governing Conservative Party is linked with such a station in Croydon. Crime Minister Chris Philp told the House of Commons an investigation by the “law enforcement community” is under way and he could not comment on the exact case.
But he told MPs: “Any attempt to coerce, intimidate or illegally repatriate any individual will not be tolerated. This egregious activity is part of a wider trend of authoritarian governments — not just China but others as well — perpetuating transnational repression in an effort to silence their critics overseas, undermine democracy and the rule of law, and further their own narrow geopolitical interests.”
The report adds to a growing list of frictions between the UK and China, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has described as a “challenge to the world order”. In December, China removed six consulate officials following a diplomatic spat over an attack on a Hong Kong man staging a peaceful protest outside the country’s consulate in Manchester.
Philp said the government was aware of approximately 100 Chinese police stations around the world. Their presence has also been documented by the Madrid-based group Safeguard Defenders. On Tuesday, two men were charged with operating such a station in New York City, while 44 others were charged over an alleged Chinese campaign to harass its citizens.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the director-general of Britain’s domestic intelligence service MI5 — Ken McCallum — had warned about Chinese authorities “both trying to influence our politics and also run unauthorised operations to monitor and intimidate the Chinese diaspora including forcibly repatriating Chinese nationals”.
Cooper questioned whether the UK government was doing enough to address “the scale of this threat” and suggested it was “not updating Parliament for fear of party political embarrassment because of the connections with the Conservative Party”.
Sunak’s press secretary told reporters she didn’t recognise reports of such links.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, a longtime critic of Beijing, also called on ministers to act faster in shutting down illegal police stations.
“Why in heaven’s name haven’t we acted alongside the Americans, even the Dutch, and shut these stations down and kicked those people out of the country?” he asked Philp in the Commons.
Philp insisted the UK government was taking a “proactive approach” and “protecting individuals and communities from threats.”