First Minister has held talks with Police Scotland about ‘base for Chinese secret police’

Nicola Sturgeon in police talks over ‘secret Chinese base in West of Scotland’

Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
The report claimed the secret police base was on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street

BBC Scotland is reporting that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has held talks with Police Scotland over reports that a Glasgow restaurant is being used as a base for Chinese secret police.

Human rights body Safeguard Defenders has released a report claiming dozens of outposts have been set up globally to coerce Chinese dissidents back home.

The report claims one base is on Sauchiehall Street at the same address as a restaurant.

A member of restaurant staff told the BBC they were unaware of the issue.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Freeburn said: “We are currently reviewing these reports to assess any criminality in conjunction with local and national partners.”

It comes as the Irish government ordered a Chinese “police station” in Dublin’s city centre to close. The Chinese authorities said the station offered a service to Chinese citizens in Ireland including the renewal of driving licences.

The Chinese government has been accused of establishing similar facilities across Europe, including two in London and in the Netherlands.

Dutch media found evidence that the “overseas service stations”, which promise to provide diplomatic services, are being used to try to silence Chinese dissidents in Europe.

A spokeswoman for the Dutch foreign ministry said the existence of the unofficial police outposts was illegal, but the Chinese foreign ministry rejected the allegations.

MSP Ross Greer (right) questioned Nicola Sturgeon Chinese overseas police service centres.

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer questioned Nicola Sturgeon on the Chinese Transnational Policing Gone Wild report during FMQs in the Scottish Parliament.

According to the report, the public security bureaus from two Chinese provinces had established 54 “overseas police service centres” across five continents and 21 countries.

Most of them are in Europe, including nine in Spain and four in Italy. In the UK, it said it had found two in London and one in Glasgow.

The first minister said she was taking the claims “extremely seriously” and had spoken to Chief Constable Iain Livingstone.

‘Important principle’

She added: “Any foreign country operating in Scotland must abide by Scottish law. The Scottish government fully supports individuals’ rights to freedom of expression and that is also an extremely important principle.

“Obviously, these matters require to be fully and properly investigated and it would not be appropriate for me to go into too much detail, but I do know and I know this as a result of a conversation I had just yesterday with the chief constable, that police are aware of these reports.

“Of course, the police are operationally independent and it’s up to them to determine what investigations would be appropriate but they are aware of this and I would repeat, these reports do require to be treated extremely seriously.”

Mr Greer, the party’s external affairs spokesperson, welcomed Ms Sturgeon’s response – adding this was not the first time the behaviour of the Chinese regime in the UK had been called into question.

He said: “In 2019 there were serious allegations of students from Hong Kong being targeted in Edinburgh and only last week the UK government had to summon a Chinese diplomat over the assault of a pro-democracy campaigner protesting outside their Manchester consulate.

“The Chinese regime has an appalling human rights record. It cannot be allowed to export that violence and abuse to Scotland.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office also said reports of undeclared police stations operating in the UK will be taken “extremely seriously”.

They added “Any foreign country operating on UK soil must abide by UK law. The protection of individuals in the UK is of the utmost importance and any attempt to illegally repatriate individuals will not be tolerated.”

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