Italy home to 11 of 100-plus unofficial Chinese ‘police stations’

Civil rights group claims outposts are used to monitor Chinese population abroad and force dissidents to return

Italy hosts the highest number of unofficial Chinese “police stations” out of a network of more than 100 around the world, a report by a Spanish civil rights group has claimed.

The northern Italian city of Milan was allegedly used by two local Chinese public security authorities as a European testing ground for a policing strategy to monitor the Chinese population abroad and force dissidents to return home.

The Madrid-based Safeguard Defenders reported in September that 54 such stations allegedly existed around the world, prompting police investigations in at least 12 countries including Canada, Germany and the Netherlands.

The Italian stations are in Rome, Milan, Bolzano, Venice, Florence, Prato – a town near Florence that hosts the largest Chinese community in Italy – and Sicily.

China has said the offices are merely “service stations” set up to assist Chinese citizens with bureaucratic procedures such as renewing a passport or driving licence.

The investigation carried out by Safeguard Defenders was based on publicly available Chinese statements and data, and was limited to stations established by local Chinese public security authorities in countries where there is a large Chinese community.

Safeguard Defenders claimed that while the stations were not directly run by Beijing, “some statements and policies are starting to show a clearer guidance from the central government in encouraging their establishment and policies”.

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