The European Commission said today that it is up to Member States to investigate the existence of alleged Chinese squadrons in the European Union (EU), namely in Portugal, stressing that, although it has not been informed, it can mobilize support for the countries, if necessary.
“We have seen news about the alleged squads that the Chinese government has created in EU member states. […] and, at the moment, the Commission does not have specific information about this situation”, declared the spokeswoman for the community executive for Internal Affairs, Anitta Hipper.
Speaking at the Commission’s daily press conference in Brussels, the official noted that this “is a matter of national sovereignty”, so “it is up to the Member States to investigate these allegations”.
“But it is clear that the Commission will follow it closely and we are ready to support the Member States involved, if necessary”, said Anitta Hipper.
China on Wednesday rejected accusations made by a non-governmental organization (NGO) that it had created 50 “police service centers” in several countries to control dissidents, including Portugal.
At a regular press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin argued that the structures “are actually service centers for Chinese overseas.”
The centers serve to support “a large number of Chinese citizens” who are unable to return to China due to the covid-19 pandemic, for example, in the renewal of Chinese driving licenses, said Wang Wenbin.
The spokesperson added that the Chinese authorities are “fully committed to fighting transnational crimes in accordance with the law, strictly observing international law and fully respecting the judicial sovereignty of other countries.”
Wang Wenbin had been asked about an investigation, announced hours earlier by the Dutch government, into the alleged creation of two illegal Chinese police stations in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
According to Dutch news, the two alleged “Chinese squads” claim to offer diplomatic assistance to Chinese citizens, but have not been registered with the Dutch government.
In a report released in September, the NGO Safeguard Defenders accused Beijing of maintaining half a hundred “police service centers” in several countries, which allegedly persuaded 230,000 alleged fugitives to return to China between April 2021 and July 2022.
Three of these “illegal squads” will operate in Portugal, according to the Madrid-based NGO.
The Safeguard Defenders report was released in Portugal by the leader of the Liberal Initiative (IL), João Cotrim Figueiredo, at the end of September, during a debate in the Assembly of the Republic.
At the time, Cotrim Figueiredo asked the Prime Minister if he knew of the existence of such Chinese police structures in Portugal, to which António Costa replied that he did not know and suggested to the IL leader that he inform the Attorney General’s Office (PGR).
Lusa later questioned the PGR about the possible opening of an investigation, but has not received a response so far.