• China illegally operates 54 'overseas service' centers across 21 countries, says a Madrid-based rights group
  • A report said that Beijing has forced nearly 10,000 Chinese overseas nationals to return since 2014
  • The Dutch government said it will determine the 'appropriate action' once it has more intel

The Dutch government is said to be investigating two illegal "police stations" operated by China in the Netherlands since 2018, reportedly to keep tabs and put pressure on overseas Chinese dissidents and refugees.

As per an investigation carried out by Dutch news outlets RTL Nieuws and Follow the Money, these Chinese police stations operated illegally without informing the Dutch government. These "stations" were ostensibly known as "overseas service stations," where Chinese nationals in the Netherlands could renew their Chinese driving licenses and report changes in their civil status.

"We are now investigating as a ministry what is going on with the centres, and when we have more intel about it we can determine the appropriate action," Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maxime Hovenkamp was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"What is correct is that the Chinese government never informed us about the centres via diplomatic channels so that makes them illegal to begin with," Hovenkamp said.

The investigation by RTL Nieuws and Follow the Money found that the stations were used to track, contact and threaten refugees and dissident Chinese residing in the Netherlands. In their report, the Dutch news outlets cited one young Chinese dissident, Wang Jingyu, as saying that he was contacted by the Chinese station in Rotterdam.

"They asked me to go back to China to sort out my problems," said the dissident who had been critical of the Chinese regime on social media in China. "They also told me to think of my parents."

Later, Wang, who has been granted asylum in the Netherlands, started receiving threatening text messages and phone calls, including the message "I'm going to kill you" with a photo of a gun.

Apart from being harassed in public, Wang also reported that several bomb threats were made in his name, following which the Dutch police raided his house, but concluded that he had nothing to do with the threats.

These illegal police stations were first identified by a Spanish civil rights group, Safeguard Defenders, which alleged that there were around 54 "overseas service centres" in 25 cities across 21 countries, the Guardian reported.

"These operations eschew official bilateral police and judicial cooperation, violate the international rule of law, and may violate the territorial integrity of third countries by setting up a parallel policing mechanism using illegal methods," the Madrid-based rights group said in a report.

Last week, the U.S. charged seven Chinese nationals for participating in an alleged campaign to force a U.S. resident back to China as part of an "international extralegal repatriation" program operated by Beijing.

Earlier this year, a report highlighted how Beijing apparently forced nearly 10,000 Chinese overseas nationals to return since 2014 using coercive means outside the justice system by expanding its policing powers overseas and conducting illegal operations on foreign soil under two programs known as Operation Fox Hunt and Operation Sky Net.

The Chinese national flag is seen in Beijing, China