The Chinese Embassy has been told running overseas police stations in UK cities including Glasgow is “unacceptable” and that “they must not operate in any form”.
Security minister Tom Tugendhat set out the findings of an investigation into allegations of unofficial Chinese overseas police stations operating in the UK which stood accused of seeking to intimidate dissidents.
One, allegedly on the city’s Sauchiehall Street, was said to be operating from a “Cantonese seafood restaurant” before being “shut down” by officials earlier this year.
Others in locations including Belfast and London were being used to “monitor and harass diaspora communities and, in some cases, to coerce people to return to China outside of legitimate channels”.
In a written statement to Parliament on Tuesday, Tugendhat said: “The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office have told the Chinese Embassy that any functions related to such ‘police service stations’ in the UK are unacceptable and that they must not operate in any form.
“The Chinese Embassy have subsequently responded that all such stations have closed permanently.
“Any further allegations will be swiftly investigated in line with UK law.”
MPs previously called for the stations to be shut down and the people operating them to be kicked out of the country.
In the Commons statement, Tugendhat said: “The police have visited each of the locations identified by Safeguard Defenders, and carefully looked into these allegations to consider whether any laws have been broken and whether any further action should be taken.
“I can confirm that they have not, to date, identified any evidence of illegal activity on behalf of the Chinese state across these sites.
“We assess that police and public scrutiny have had a suppressive impact on any administrative functions these sites may have had.
“However, these ‘police service stations’ were established without our permission and their presence, regardless of whatever low level administrative activity they were performing, will have worried and intimidated those who have left China and sought safety and freedom here in the UK. This is unacceptable.
“The Chinese authorities regularly criticise others for what they see as interference in their internal affairs. Yet, they felt able to open unattributed sites without consulting the UK Government. It is alleged that this was a pattern repeated around the world.”
The National Security Bill, in its final stages of going through Parliament, will “drastically improve our tools to deal with the full range of state threat activity, regardless of where it originates,” he said.
Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, said: “Any Chinese ‘police stations’ being used to spy on Hong Kong and mainland Chinese communities anywhere in the UK must be shut down immediately.
“The UK Government must defend Hong Kong and mainland Chinese people living here from Beijing’s efforts to intimidate and silence them and protect their rights to peaceful protest and freedom of expression.
“The Government must make it absolutely clear to the Chinese authorities at the highest levels that it will not tolerate the long arm of Chinese state oppression here.”