UK Government Urged to Shut Chinese Police Outposts Following Report of Conservative Party Connection
The UK government was urged on Wednesday to shut down Chinese police outposts in the country after it was reported one of the stations’ hosts has been rubbing shoulders with two former Conservative prime ministers.
It also comes after the FBI arrested two people in connection with a similar outpost in New York.
Responding to MPs’ questioning, Policing Minister Chris Philp said that UK police are still investigating the matter, and said all political parties should be alert about hostile state infiltrations.
All Eat App, a food delivery platform registered in Croydon in east London, is at one of the addresses in the UK that were listed as Chinese “overseas police service stations.”
Research by human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders (pdf) has identified 102 of such unofficial police outposts across 53 countries. Chinese officials have claimed the stations are set up to help overseas Chinese renew their documents, but Safeguard Defenders found evidence that some of the stations had been involved in the repatriation of alleged criminals outside of normal channels.
Alleged UFWD and Tory Links
According to The Times of London, Lin Ruiyou, director of All Eat App and UK Fujianese association, has attended conferences and political events in China that are connected to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s United Front Work Department (UFWD).
The report also said he was appointed the vice chairman of Cities of London and Westminster Conservative Association (CLWCA) Chinese Group in 2019.
According to the paper, the CLWCA hosts annual dinners for Chinese diplomats including the ambassador and senior British politicians, raising “thousands of pounds” for the local Conservative party.
The Times published two photos, in one of which Lin posed with then Prime Minister Theresa May, in the other one he posted with then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
A spokesman for CLWCA said in a statement: “Given the nature of these allegations, last year we immediately reported the matter to the security services. Mr Lin is no longer a member of CLWCA.”
In an interview with YesTV Daily published in November last year, Lin denied working for the Chinese regime, police, or the CCP, saying he was volunteering to help Chinese expats renew driver’s licenses during the COVID-19 pandemic when travel was severely restricted.
The 41-year-old Chinese-born British citizen also denied working for UFWD, arguing that dining and taking photos with friends who work for the Chinese regime doesn’t mean he works for the UFWD.
He acknowledged having been in photos with British politicians, but rejected trying to influence British politics.
Police Investigation Ongoing
Besides All Eat App, Safeguard Defenders has identified two other service stations in London and Glasgow.
The phone number for the Glasgow station is coupled with an address belonging to a Chinese restaurant while the other London station shared an address with a Hendon estate agent.
The Metropolitan Police and Police Scotland confirmed last year that they were looking into the matter.
Asked about accusations against Lin, Philp said, “There is a live investigation by the law enforcement community into this into this matter,” but he couldn’t comment on a live police investigation.
Standing in for Security Minister Tom Tugendhat, who was on a trip in Northern Ireland, Philp said the Times’ report is “of great concern.”
Commenting on fears that the police outposts could be used to intimidate dissidents, the minister said the protection of people in the UK is “of the utmost importance.”
“Any attempt to coerce, intimidate, or illegally repatriate any individual will not be tolerated,” he said.
“This egregious activity is part of a wider trend of authoritarian governments, not just China, but others as well, perpetrating 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 minister said the UK takes a “proactive approach” in protecting those who are identified to be at heightened risk.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper questioned the full extent of Lin’s involvement with the Conservative Party and government ministers.
In response, Philp said “all political parties need to be alert to the danger that representatives of hostile states seek to infiltrate or influence their activities.”
Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith urged the government shut down the stations.
“We know that they are bringing Chinese dissidents in. They are confronting them with videos of their families, threatening their families in front of them if they don’t cooperate and leave and go back to China. We know that. The security services have warned the government about that. The question really here today is why in heaven’s name haven’t we acted alongside the Americans, even the Dutch, and shut these stations down and kick those people out of the country?” he said.
Philp said the activity Duncan Smith described is “unacceptable” and “must and will be stopped,” and he Tugendhat will provide an update as soon as he can.
He also appeared to suggest the stations are no longer in operation after Foreign Affairs Committee chair Alicia Kearns said four illegal police stations are known to be operating in the UK, including one in Belfast.
“She asserted in her question that these locations were still operating. She is making, if I may say, an assumption in making that assertion, not an assumption I’m going to comment on because it is a matter of a live investigation,” Philp said.
Last year, the Irish and Dutch governments ordered the closure of the stations in their countries.
The FBI on April 17 arrested two people on charges of operating a secret police station in New York City on behalf of China’s regime. Prosecutors said the pair conspired to work as CCP agents took the regime’s orders to track down and silence Chinese dissidents living in the United States.