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Australian Federal Police’s Relationship With Beijing ‘Must Be Re-Assessed’: Expert

Concerns have been raised about the close relationship between the Australian Federal Police and Chinese law enforcement after reports revealed a secret Beijing-backed overseas police station was located in Sydney, Australia.

The police “service station” was established in 2018 by the Public Security Bureau of Wenzhou City in China, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) reported on Oct. 13.

The Sydney contact point is part of Beijing’s effort to set up a network of stations around the world to repress dissidents globally, according to a report published by international human rights group Safeguard Defenders.

The September report, titled “110 Overseas: Chinese Transnational Policing Gone Wild (pdf),” warned the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) set up at “least 54 police-run ‘overseas police service centres’ across five continents.”

‘Persuaded to Return’ to China 

While these stations serve administrative purposes on the surface, such as extending Chinese driver’s licenses and processing official documents, they have a “more sinister goal” of “collaborating with Chinese police in carrying out policing operations on foreign soil,” the report noted.

From April 2021 to July 2022, an estimated 230,000 overseas Chinese nationals have been “persuaded to return” to China to face criminal charges. “Persuasion to return” involves harassment and intimidation of the target’s relatives in China.

Epoch Times Photo
Overseas Chinese police “Service Stations,” or “110 Overseas,” are found in dozens of countries across five continents. (Courtesy of Safeguarddefenders)

In 2014, Melbourne resident Dong Feng, a practitioner of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice persecuted in China, was “persuaded” by the Chinese police to return to China to face a court.

Australian officials were not notified about the matter beforehand, which compelled the former Abbott government to summon Chinese diplomats to meet and for officials to express their “deep concerns” over the “unacceptable” undercover operation.

Australian Federal Police’s History with Beijing

While Australia’s extradition treaty with China was shelved in 2017 due to human rights concerns, in the same year, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) signed several agreements with China’s Ministry of Public Security on targeting transnational crime and cooperation.

In 2018, the AFP signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese National Commission of Supervision on “anti-corruption law enforcement cooperation.”

In 2019, the AFP celebrated the 20-year anniversary of working with Beijing’s police.

The then-AFP Deputy Commissioner Operations Neil Gaughan emphasised “how crucial this relationship is in creating a more safe and secure region—and protecting our countries from mutual crime threats.”

“The AFP was the first law enforcement agency to be invited into China and we have worked together—strongly and productively—across a range of mutual transnational and serious organised crime types,” Gaughan said in a statement.

“We have achieved success, and we look forward to building on this success over the next 20 years.”

Epoch Times Photo
AFP Commissioner Neil Gaughan speaks to the media in Canberra, Australia on Jun. 6, 2019. (Getty Images)

‘Simply Unacceptable’: Defence Expert

The AFP’s close relationship with Chinese police has raised concerns from some experts.

“The relationship between the AFP and Chinese law enforcement agencies is now out of step with the shifts in Chinese state behaviour and direction over the last five years,” defence expert Michael Shoebridge told The Epoch Times in an email. “It’s a policing relationship that must be reassessed.”

Shoebridge, who was director at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the problem for the AFP now was that the Chinese state’s actions around “mass surveillance and repression domestically” had been exposed.

“That’s shown by the recently-revealed presence of Chinese ‘overseas police outreach’ operations in more than 80 cities across the world, including Australia,” he said, referring to the Safeguard Defenders report.

“Chinese police use methods that are simply unacceptable in Australia, and they also operate as a key, close arm of Xi’s repressive authoritarian regime, as we saw graphically with the Hong Kong takeover.

“That just doesn’t sit well with the way police in Australia operate—within a system of democracy, personal freedom, and the rule of law.”

Epoch Times Photo
Michael Shoebridge, former director of defence, strategy and national security program at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. (Supplied)

Laura Harth, campaign director of Safeguard Defenders, echoed the concern.

“The uncovering of the police service stations set up by county-level Public Security Bureaus in coordination with United Front Work organisations is only the latest in the increasingly brazen and illegal transnational policing activities of the CCP,” she told The Epoch Times in an email.

“The bland admission of the practice by a Shanghai official to Spanish newspaper El Correo comes as no surprise to those who followed our Involuntary Returns report earlier this year, which highlighted how the illegal ‘persuasion to return’ methods have become standard practice under a written legal interpretation from the PRC’s National Commission of Supervision-Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection, which is the very same non-judicial Party-body the Australian Federal Police maintains a cooperation agreement with since December 2018.”

Meanwhile, Shoebridge also cautioned Australian officials on the Solomon Islands’ current engagement with Chinese police, which saw the Pacific government dispatch police officers to China for “training.”

“It’s very hard to tell [Prime Minister] Sogavare in the Solomon islands he shouldn’t engage with the same police that the AFP celebrate as partners,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
China’s ambassador to the Solomon Islands Li Ming (R), and Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare are cutting a ribbon during the opening ceremony of a China-funded national stadium complex in Honiara on April 22, 2022. (Mavis Podokolo/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s time to reassess and end this working partnership between the AFP and the Chinese Ministry for Public Security. Not doing so creates the conditions for the AFP’s reputation to be damaged in our society and internationally.”

The Epoch Times reached out to the Department of Home Affairs and was referred to the AFP.

Both the AFP and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation said they had no comment on the matter.

The Epoch Times has reached out to former Defence Minister Peter Dutton, former Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, and former Foreign Minister Marise Payne in regards to the Morrison government’s awareness of the Chinese police station in Sydney during their time in government. None replied in time for publication.

Epoch Times Sydney Staff


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