China forced return of nearly 10,000 nationals in overseas crackdown, says report

Beijing has coerced nearly 10,000 Chinese overseas nationals to return since 2014 using means and methods outside the justice system, according to Spain-based rights group Safeguard Defenders.
People ride bicycles past an advertisement at a bus stop in Beijing. China has coerced nearly 10,000 overseas nationals to return since 2014 using means and methods outside the justice system, according to Spain-based rights group Safeguard Defenders. (REUTERS)
People ride bicycles past an advertisement at a bus stop in Beijing. China has coerced nearly 10,000 overseas nationals to return since 2014 using means and methods outside the justice system, according to Spain-based rights group Safeguard Defenders. (REUTERS)
Updated on Jan 19, 2022 08:27 PM IST
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BySutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Amit Chanda

China has coerced nearly 10,000 Chinese overseas nationals to return since 2014 using means and methods outside the justice system, a new report by the Spain-based rights group Safeguard Defenders said.

The figure could be the “tip of the iceberg”, the group has said, given that China is increasingly pursuing its nationals aggressively overseas.

The report said China is expanding its policing powers overseas and conducting illegal operations on foreign soil.

The Chinese foreign ministry dismissed the report, saying the drive to bring back fugitives is part of the government’s anti-corruption campaign, carried out overseas with international consensus. “Combating transnational corruption crimes through cooperation is an international consensus,” foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday.

“This is a just cause that has won full support from the Chinese people and wide praise from the international community,” Zhao added.

Zhang was repeating China’s official narrative: The targets are people wanted by the Chinese judicial system as part of President Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption drive.

The Safeguard Defencers’ report from Spain, however, paints a grim picture, detailing cases where those who criticised the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) had relatives in the country harassed and detained in attempts to coerce them to return. “Through two programmes, Operation Fox Hunt and Operation Sky Net, targeted individuals were pressured to return to China against their will due to a combination of non-judicial methods, including kidnappings, harassment and intimidation,” the report said.

“With the Chinese diaspora growing at an ever faster rate as more people seek to leave China... Beijing has never been more motivated to expand the powers of its security forces overseas,” the report said.

The group cited government data in its estimate that almost 10,000 Chinese nationals had been forcibly returned since 2014.

Official figures from the government’s anti-graft watchdog show Beijing returned around 2,500 targeted individuals in the past two years, according to agency reports.

But the numbers do not include suspects apprehended for non-economic crimes or those who are not members of China’s ruling Communist Party.

The NGO’s report alleges intimidation of suspects’ family members in China is widespread and Chinese agents are sent to threaten targets in foreign countries.

Sometimes overseas nationals are lured to third countries that have extradition agreements with China, the rights group said.

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