Photo: Jannik via Unsplash
A recent report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has validated widespread concerns within the international human rights community that China is employing a toolkit of repressive methods to silence critics globally.
The report published in December 2023 is entitled ‘China’s Global Police State: Background and U.S. Policy Implications’ and concludes that China’s strategy of transnational repression, including its misuse of Interpol, directly harms the sovereignty of nations and citizens' rights, undermining global law enforcement efforts.
According to the report, China’s toolkit of transnational repression consists of seven methods including digital surveillance and harassment, the deployment of state security officers abroad to pursue and repatriate targets, and "coercion-by-proxy" actions executed on behalf of Beijing—often by overseas Chinese individuals. The methods are characterised as part of an increasingly aggressive campaign by the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China to "stalk, surveil, harass, intimidate, and assault its victims."
Notably, the report emphasises China's alleged misuse of Interpol’s Red Notice system and confirms that Chinese authorities are obtaining false warrants to target political opponents. Despite efforts by Interpol to close in on abuse by member states, manipulation of the Red Notice system remains a convenient way for the Chinese government to extend its influence.
The report highlights a meeting between Interpol's secretary-general, Juergen Stock, and China's Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong in Beijing in April 2023. Following which the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua announced that "China is willing to work with Interpol to promote the implementation of the Global Security Initiative."
Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Public Security proudly revealed in December that since the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October 2017, some 5,000 Chinese individuals accused of engaging in diverse economic offenses have been ‘repatriated’ to China from over 100 countries and regions.
As the US Commission report confirms, the return of individuals to China is often the result of unlawful and coercive methods. China’s Ministry of Public Security confirmed that several ‘repatriations’ were through Interpol Red Notices.
About China's manipulation of Interpol's notice system and screening processes, the report's dedicated chapter on China’s abuse of Interpol confirms what Red Notice Monitor and other international observers have long been flagging:
According to Interpol’s website, member states use Red Notices “to seek the location and arrest of persons wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence,” but there are screening processes for their issuance intended to protect against politically motivated usage. By issuing Red Notices for individuals from groups like ethnic and religious minorities and dissidents, Beijing violates article 3 of Interpol’s constitution, which prohibits the organization from undertaking “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious, or racial character.”
For example, China used Interpol to issue a Red Notice for Li Chuanliang, a former vice mayor of a city in Heilongjiang Province who fled to the United States in 2020 after his efforts to uncover official corruption led him to fear for his family’s safety. He was subsequently charged in absentia by Chinese authorities with embezzlement and accepting bribes.
In February 2020, while residing in the United States, Mr. Li learned that Interpol had issued a Red Notice for him at Beijing’s behest. Mr. Li worked with a U.S.-based attorney to submit to Interpol a “removal request” to cancel the Red Notice in May 2021, confirming that it had been rescinded in 2022.
The report clearly sets out the significant security risks to the United States and its allies currently posed by China's transnational repression and ought to be given serious consideration by foreign policy makers the world over, not to mention by Interpol itself.