UK Minister for Security Tom Tugendhat updated Parliament on Tuesday about Chinese “overseas police service stations” on commitments made in parliamentary statements last November and reiterated by Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire Chris Philp in April. Tugendhat told Parliament that the UK has ordered China to close any remaining so-called “police stations” on UK soil, calling the stations’ very existence “unacceptable.”
Tugendhat explained that Chinese nationals in the UK established the stations without UK approval. UK authorities received reports from non-governmental organization Safeguard Defenders of these stations in Croydon, Glasgow and Hendon, with allegations of another in Belfast. The US and Ireland both recently uncovered similar stations in their countries. Like the UK, they said the stations were used to monitor and harass Chinese diaspora communities. Tugenhadt noted that the stations were even known “to coerce people to return to China outside of legitimate channels.”
Tugendhat said, “[T]hese ‘police service stations’ were established without our permission and their presence, regardless of whatever low level administrative activity they were performing…is unacceptable.” Tugendhat said that Chinese citizens living in the UK “had sought safety and freedom” away from the Chinese Communist Party.
In response to the discovery of these stations, Tugendhat said that the government had raised concerns with the Chinese embassy that any function related to such stations in the UK are unacceptable and that they must not operate in any form. The Chinese embassy reportedly said that all such stations had been closed, permanently. Tugenhadt said any further allegations of the sort would be swiftly investigated under UK law.
Tugendhat continued, “Let me be clear, any attempt by any foreign power to intimidate, harass or harm individuals or communities in the UK will not be tolerated. This is an insidious threat to our democracy and fundamental human rights.”
China has maintained that it “adheres to the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, strictly observes international laws and respects the judicial sovereignty of all countries.” Further stating that “[i]t is important that some from the UK side respect the facts rather than spread false accusations.”
While before Parliament, Tugendhat also reiterated his plea that both houses of Parliament pass the National Security Bill, as previously discussed by former Justice Minister Brandon Lewis, who discussed human rights reform at the annual Conservative Party Conference. Those reforms have since progressed to their final stages, and “represents the biggest overhaul of state threats legislation in a generation, and will drastically improve our tools to deal with the full range of state threat activity, regardless of where it originates.” The bill contains provisions that will leave those seeking to coerce—including through threats of violence for or with the intention to benefit a foreign state—liable to prosecution in a way that they currently are not. Those convicted could face up to 14 years in prison.