Japan looks into claim that China is running covert police stations

TOKYO/BEIJING: The government in Tokyo is investigating a report that China has set up covert police stations inside Japan, amid similar checks by authorities in European countries, the United States and Canada.

Safeguard Defenders, an Asia-focused rights group based in Spain, has published two reports since September alleging that Chinese authorities have established 102 overseas police stations in 53 countries, including Japan.

China has dismissed the allegations and on Thursday (Dec 22) its foreign ministry denied that such police stations existed.

Asked about the Japanese government’s response to the report, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference: “We will take all necessary steps as we clarify the situation.”

Matsuno said Japan had told Chinese authorities that any activity that violated Japan’s sovereignty would be “unacceptable”.

The Safeguard Defenders reports alleged that the Chinese police were using the police stations to target Chinese nationals living abroad and pressuring some to return home to face criminal charges.

Chinese authorities have said the facilities are volunteer-run centres that help citizens renew documents and offer other services that were disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“China has always adhered to the principle of not interfering in the domestic affairs of foreign countries, strictly abided by international laws and respected the judicial sovereignty of each country,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Thursday.

“The so-called Chinese overseas police stations simply do not exist.”

Safeguard Defenders said in a September report that police from the Chinese city of Fuzhou had set up a “service station” in Tokyo. The group indicated in a follow-up report that police from China’s Nantong had another such station somewhere in Japan.

South Korean authorities are investigating allegations of similar activities there, Yonhap news agency said in a report.

A spokesperson for the foreign ministry in Seoul declined to comment directly on the report but added: “We are communicating with related countries to make sure foreign agencies’ activities in our country abide by our domestic laws and international norms.”