The Government has sought answers from the Chinese embassy about the presence of a Chinese “police service station” in Dublin.
The Fuzhou Police Overseas Service Station opened in Dublin earlier this year in an office building on Capel Street which it shares with other Chinese organisations.
Signage for the station was removed from the front of the building last week and it is not known if it remains operational. Queries to the embassy and a phone number associated with the station went unanswered this week.
The embassy previously said the station offers administrative assistance to Chinese nationals living in Ireland, such as facilitating drivers’ licence renewals. It rejected reports the station was involved in law enforcement activity.
A recent 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 residents to return home to face criminal charges.
Some of these stations are accused of pressurising or threatening emigrants and their family members to force them to return home.
According to Chinese authorities, some 230,000 people have been “persuaded” to return to China from other countries since April 2021.
Many are accused of engaging in telephone scams targeting Chinese people at home and abroad.
There is no evidence the Capel Street station has been involved in these “persuasion” activities.
Government Ministers faced several parliamentary questions about the station’s activities this week. Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the presence of the office has been raised by officials in his department with the embassy and that “discussions are ongoing”.
He said officials are consulting “across Government” to address the issue and “to ensure the appropriate application of relevant international and domestic law”.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said: “There is no question of an overseas police station providing a policing service in the State.”
Fuzhou is a city of eight million people in the Fujian province on China’s southeast coast. A significant proportion of the Chinese community in Ireland are believed to come from the city.
The city’s public security bureau set up the overseas police service stations as part of an initiative called “Overseas 110″, a reference to the Chinese emergency services number.
The Fuzhou police says it has opened 30 such stations in 21 countries. Other Chinese cities and provinces also operate their own stations.