The Department of Foreign Affairs ordered a Chinese “police service station” operating in Dublin city centre to close, following scrutiny over the activities of the overseas offices.
The Fuzhou Police Overseas Service Station opened earlier this year in an office building on Capel Street, which it shared with other Chinese organisations.
The presence of the station, which the Chinese embassy said only offered Chinese nationals administrative assistance such as helping with drivers’ licence renewals, had come under increased scrutiny in recent months.
A report from human rights group Safeguard Defenders said the station is part of a worldwide network of overseas Chinese law enforcement offices, some of which have been known to “persuade” Chinese emigrants to return home, sometimes to face criminal charges.
The Dutch government recently announced it would investigate two stations operating in the Netherlands, following allegations they had been used to monitor Chinese dissidents living abroad.
The Chinese embassy in Dublin has insisted the Capel Street office was not involved in any law enforcement activity. There is no evidence it was involved in “persuasion” activities .
However, following media reports, the operation of the station in Ireland had been the subject of discussion among Government departments.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said neither Chinese authorities nor officials from the Fujian province or Fuzhou city sought permission from the department to set up the station in Dublin.
As a result, department officials raised the presence of the police service station with the Chinese embassy in recent weeks.
“The Department noted that actions of all foreign states on Irish territory must be in compliance with international law and domestic law requirements,” a spokesman said. “On this basis, the Department informed the Embassy that the office on Capel Street should close and cease operations.”
The Chinese embassy had confirmed “that the activities of the office have ceased,” the spokesman said.
In a statement, the Chinese embassy said the station had been set up to help citizens from Fujian province renew driving licenses that had expired during the Covid-19 pandemic. “ Now the Fujian Provincial authorities have announced that the driving licenses can be renewed online by mobile, so the activities carried by the facility were terminated,” it said.
A significant proportion of the Chinese community in Ireland are believed to come from Fuzhou, a city of eight million people in the Fujian province on China’s southeast coast.
At the start of this month signage for the station was removed from the front of the Capel Street building, but the embassy would not respond to queries about whether the station had ceased operating.