Since 2014, Chinese authorities have forced around 10,000 Chinese living abroad to return home. This is stated by a human rights group in a new report.
The Spanish human rights group Safeguard Defenders believes the numbers are only the tip of the iceberg, and that there are far more Chinese who are forced home – often using illegal methods.
The group believes that China is aggressively persecuting its citizens living abroad, and that the authorities are expanding their police authority abroad and thus carrying out illegal operations on foreign soil.
Chinese authorities are officially hiding behind the fact that these are people wanted by the Chinese judicial system for corruption – and thus are part of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption work.
But Safeguard Defenders has many examples of people who have criticized the Communist Party being pressured to return home. Many people choose to return home because their relatives are being harassed or arrested.
Through two programs, Operation fox hunt and Operation Sky Net, people the authorities have looked out for, are pressured to return against their will. Fox Hunt was started in 2014 with the aim of tracking down Chinese abroad who were wanted for economic crime. Sky Net, which saw the light of day in 2015, is a parallel program, created to reinforce Operation Fox Hunt.
According to Safeguard Defender, the Chinese authorities are using a combination of illegal methods, including kidnappings, harassment and threats.
While an increasing number of Chinese want to leave China, we also see an increasing motivation among the authorities to use their security forces abroad, the report states.
Safeguard Defenders refers to government data which shows that close to 10,000 Chinese citizens have been forcibly returned since 2014.
Official figures from the government’s anti-corruption body show that around 2,500 people have been arrested and sent back to China in the last two years.
But the figures do not include people arrested for non-economic crimes or people who are not members of China’s ruling Communist Party.
The judge’s family was threatened
The human rights organization mentions several examples in its report:
After moving to Canada, former Supreme Court Justice Xie Weidong went public with criticism of China’s criminal justice system. Chinese authorities accused him of corruption and then tried to get him to return “voluntarily”.
When he refused, police first arrested his sister and then his son in China. Police also contacted his ex-wife, a former business partner and others, all with the aim of persuading him to return.
But after his time as a judge, Xie knew all too well what awaited him if he were to return and continued to refuse despite the retaliation against family members and others.
In China, the Chinese courts are controlled by the Communist Party.
The human rights organization believes that threats against suspects’ family members in China are widespread and that Chinese agents are being sent abroad to threaten people there. Sometimes Chinese abroad are also lured to a third country that has an extradition agreement with China.
China has been repeatedly accused of carrying out kidnappings abroad.
In 2015, the Swedish citizen Gui Minhai was allegedly abducted from Thailand before he later reappeared in Chinese custody. Gui Minhai ran a bookstore in Hong Kong.
He received a ten-year sentence in a Chinese prison for giving information to a foreign power, he is still in prison. Swedish attempts to free him have not succeeded. There has also been criticism of Sweden’s so-called “silent diplomacy”.
In 2017, billionaire and businessman Xiao Jianhua disappeared from a hotel in Hong Kong. It is assumed that he is still under arrest in China.
Presses i USA
In 2020, FBI Director Christopher Wray addressed the issue of China pushing emigrants home from the United States, he wrote VG that time.
– In a case where they could not find a person, the Chinese government sent an envoy to visit the family of the person in the United States. The message that was delivered was that the person had two options, either to return to China immediately or to take his own life.
Wray said that “China describes Operation Fox Hunting as a kind of international anti-corruption campaign”
– It’s not. The operation is instead a comprehensive move to go after Chinese President Xi Jinping sees as threats and who live outside China, all over the world, he said.
In a comment to VG, China expert Henrik Stålhane Hiim stated that it is a bit mixed who China is after.
– It is probably true that they have gone after corrupt people. But there is also no doubt that they have hunted for dissidents as well, said Hiim, who is now working on research projects related to Chinese security policy at the Norwegian Defense College.