MPs urge Government to take action against ‘Chinese police stations’ in the UK

The House of Commons heard there are four sites of concern in the UK, with the Government saying the allegations are being investigated.

Richard Wheeler
Wednesday 19 April 2023 14:39 BST
Home Office minister Chris Philp (James Manning/PA)
Home Office minister Chris Philp (James Manning/PA) (PA Archive)

Alleged Chinese police stations in the UK must be shut down and the people operating them should be kicked out of the country, MPs have urged.

At least four sites of concern linked to China, including in London, Glasgow and Belfast, were identified by MPs in the House of Commons and accused of seeking to intimidate Chinese dissidents.

Home Office minister Chris Philp confirmed law enforcement agencies are investigating the allegations and described the latest reports about the sites as being “of great concern”.

He added the UK Government is “aware of approximately 100 alleged stations” around the world.

There is no question that when we are vulnerable at home to Chinese transnational repression - I hope the minister is listening - we are weaker on the world stage. This is a transnational crisis

Alicia Kearns

The Times reported Chinese businessman Ruiyou Lin, 40, is linked to a “secret police station” in Croydon and has organised Conservative Party fundraising dinners and been photographed alongside prime ministers.

In November 2022, Mr Lin issued a series of denials – including rejecting the idea that he worked for China – and said he believed the motivation behind the police station allegation could be to “attack me personally or my business”.

He said his work has involved volunteering to help Chinese expats update their driving licences.

A spokesman for the Cities Of London & Westminster Conservative Association (CLWCA) said in a statement: “Given the nature of these allegations, last year we immediately reported the matter to the security services. Mr Lin is no longer a member of CLWCA.”

Mr Philp, responding to an urgent question from Labour, told the House of Commons: “The latest reporting in the Times on the so-called overseas police stations are, of course, of great concern.

“As the security minister (Tom Tugendhat) said in his previous statement on this matter, in November last year, investigations by the law enforcement community are ongoing, which of course limits what I’m able to say in this House on a live investigation on a sensitive matter, as members of this House will, of course, appreciate.”

He added: “I will, however, take this opportunity to reassure the House of this Government’s resolve to protect every community in this country from transnational repression.

“The protection of people in the United Kingdom is of the utmost importance. Any attempt to coerce, intimidate or illegally repatriate any individual will not be tolerated.

“This egregious activity is part of a wider trend of authoritarian governments, not just China but others as well, perpetrating transnational repression in an effort to silence their critics overseas, undermine democracy and the rule of law, and further their own narrow geopolitical interests.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the lack of answers will raise “grave concerns”, adding: “Other countries have taken visible action.

“This week two men were arrested by the FBI in New York for suspected operations. And in the Netherlands, similar operations have been shut down. But here in the UK we have heard nothing, no reports of arrests, no reassurance that these operations have been closed down.”

Conservative former minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the Government has “known for a considerable amount of time” about the alleged Chinese police stations in the UK.

He said: “We know they are bringing Chinese dissidents in, they are confronting them with videos of their families, threatening their families in front of them if they don’t co-operate and leave and go back to China.

“We know that. The security services have warned the Government about that. The question really here today is: Why in heaven’s name haven’t we acted alongside the Americans, even the Dutch, and shut these stations down and kick those people out of the country?”

Mr Philp said the Government takes the activity described “incredibly seriously”, adding: “It’s unacceptable, it must and will be stopped.”

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said she is “exasperated” about the Government’s response since she raised the issue six months ago, telling the Commons: “There are four illegal police stations we know of operating in the country – the one in Belfast seems to be missing from much of the reporting.

“There is no question that when we are vulnerable at home to Chinese transnational repression – I hope the minister is listening – we are weaker on the world stage. This is a transnational crisis.”

She also urged the Home Office to close organisations linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that are trying to silence UK critics, adding: “Other countries have acted, so why haven’t we?”

Conservative MP Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) said: “We know who these diplomats are, we don’t have to wait for a court case – we’re not going to be imprisoning Chinese diplomats – before we start expelling diplomats who are engaged in these practices.”

Conservative former minister Simon Clarke said: “When will the Government designate China, as we should, as a formal threat to the interests of the United Kingdom in our security architecture?”

SNP home affairs spokeswoman Alison Thewliss said one of the alleged stations is in her Glasgow Central constituency and sought assurances for the safety of the Chinese community in Scotland.

DUP MP Jim Shannon said some Chinese expats living in his Strangford constituency feel they “have been followed, they’re pretty sure their phones have been tapped” and sought assurances over their safety.

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