A family member of the man was asked to sit next to the Chinese authorities in China during the call – a move that can be interpreted as a thinly veiled threat.
Other examples of possible blackmail listed by Safeguard Defenders are authorities threatening to cut electricity to the homes of families back home, or restricting access to public schools for relatives.
Chinese government ‘avoids legal proceedings’
By using the police “service” stations instead of following formal extradition proceedings, the Chinese government “manages to avoid the growing scrutiny of its human rights record”.
It also avoids the difficulties faced in obtaining the return of “fugitives” through legal proceedings, the Safeguard Defenders report said.
“It leaves legal Chinese residents abroad fully exposed to extra-legal targeting by the Chinese police, with little to none of the protection theoretically ensured under both national and international law,” it added.
When contacted on the phone by The Telegraph, a worker from one of the police “service centres” in London said the organisation can help overseas Chinese extend their Chinese driver’s licences and arrange required health checks for documents.
Some of the community associations that operate the police centres are tied to the United Front Work Department, an organ of the Chinese Communist Party that seeks to influence the Chinese diaspora.
The “110 overseas service stations” are just one aspect of what the non-profit describes as “a massive nationwide campaign to combat the growing issue of fraud and telecommunication fraud by Chinese nationals living abroad.”
As part of this effort, Chinese authorities claim that between April 2021 and July 2022, they “persuaded” 230,000 nationals to return to face criminal proceedings in China.
Most of the cases were tied to telecom fraud in Myanmar and other Southeast Asian nations.
The Home Office said any requests for repatriation of suspected foreign criminals must be made in accordance with UK and international law. Illegal repatriation efforts will not be tolerated, it added.