Dutch probe ‘illegal’ China gov’t offices in Netherlands

AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands is investigating offices that have been operating illegally in the country on behalf of the Chinese government, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

The investigation follows reports by RTL Nieuws and website “Follow The Money” that two such offices have carried out functions, including remotely renewing Chinese citizens drivers’ licenses.

The Chinese Embassy said in an emailed reaction to Reuters questions it “was not aware of the issue … and not involved in it”.

“China`s judicial and law-enforcement authorities strictly abide by international rules and fully respect the judicial sovereignty of other countries,” it said.

Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maxime Hovenkamp said: “We are now investigating as a ministry what is going on with the centers, and when we have more intel about it we can determine the appropriate action.

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

RTL interviewed Wang Jingyu, a Chinese dissident, who said representatives from one such office in Rotterdam had sought to pressure him to return to China, as part of a wider harassment campaign.

A September study by Madrid-based rights group Safeguard Defenders said Chinese police agencies had established offices in 30 countries and were using them to press political aims abroad, including “in covert and illegal policing operations in Spain”.

The point of such underground centers was for China’s Communist Party to stifle criticism within expatriate communities “as much as it has done at home for so long,” said Safeguard Defenders spokesperson Laura Harth.

Beijing has defended a more assertive foreign policy under President Xi Jinping after a Hong Kong protester was seen being dragged into the Chinese consulate in Manchester earlier this month. — Reuters