The Chinese government operates overseas police stations. From the report of Safeguard Defenders, it turns out that Hungary is among the nations in which these operate. Seemingly the stations offer consular services but in the background, they serve a more sinister purpose. In reality, their job is to “convince” people to return home.
The Chinese government officially started a programme in 2014 called “Operation Fox Hunt.” The aim was to somehow capture fugitives who fled the country based on corruption charges. According to the government, 18,000 officials fled the country out of which about 10,000 have “voluntarily” returned. Safeguard Defenders calls these cases “Involuntary returns” as behind these returns there is usually extortion and harassment.
Fugitives are usually “convinced” to return by three methods. First, the authorities threaten the fugitives’ or the suspects’ families who still live in China. Second, they harass the person on foreign grounds either online or by an agent as long as they do not return. The third method is the most drastic, but fortunately, there is no evidence that it has been used so far. This method means kidnapping and taking the suspects back to China.
Later the Chinese government started expanding these programmes. In 2018 the management of the programme was placed under a non-judicial organ, and since then most of the data became unknown. In many cases, even people who did not even commit crimes were harassed by authorities. Officially the goal is to capture fugitives, but in practice, it is an attempt of the Chinese government to expand its influence. They try to control Chinese diasporas around the world. Their job is to capture criminals and silence the opposition of the CCP.
The police stations belong either to the Fuzhou or Qintian city police. Some countries, including Hungary have police stations from both branches — reports Safeguard Defenders. The most common crime nowadays is online and telecom fraud, which is something quite ambiguous. Therefore, people can become suspects pretty much without a reason. There are nine countries named by the CCP in which Chinese citizens can only stay with “good reason.” In these countries, the stay of Chinese residents is effectively not allowed. Officially, there are 38 overseas police stations on the five continents, but the real number is unknown.
Although these institutions are not entirely secret, their presence still poses security threats to the countries in which they are located. For now, it seems that the CCP only tries to get a grip on their overseas populations, but how these will transform in the future remains a mystery.