China involved in 3,000 Interpol investigations, state media says
Scale of Beijing’s cooperation with global policing agency outlined amid claims of foul play from human rights groups
With the 86th Interpol General Assembly set to open in Beijing on Tuesday, state media reported on Monday that China was involved in about 3,000 investigations currently being handled through the global police cooperation agency.
China’s public security bureaus were working with police teams around the world, the official Legal Daily reported, on cases that involve both the search for Chinese fugitives living overseas and foreign criminals with links to China.
Also on Monday, Xinhua quoted the Ministry of Public Security as saying that it had 64 foreign liaison police officers based in 37 embassies in 31 countries. Last year alone they cooperated with local authorities on 4,460 cases, it said.
Since coming to power in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping – who is expected to deliver the opening speech at the three-day general assembly – has staged a wide-sweeping campaign to repatriate Chinese citizens suspected of corruption and terrorism offences.
In that time, Interpol has issued about 200 “red notices” a year at the request of Beijing, according to the Legal Daily report.
Red notices are a form of international arrest warrant that are circulated by Interpol to member countries, listing persons who are wanted for extradition. When a person comes to the attention of the local police, the country that sought the listing is notified and can then ask either for the suspect to be arrested or for formal extradition proceedings to be started.
In April, Beijing asked for a red notice to be issued for fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok, who is wanted in China on corruption charges. The warrant was issued a day before Guo was interviewed by US broadcaster Voice of America, in which he made claims of high-level corruption within the ruling Communist Party.
While Beijing would doubtless claim that all of the people it seeks help in locating through Interpol are valid, human rights groups have accused it of abusing its relationship with the agency to track down and incarcerate political opponents and dissidents.
New York-based Human Rights Watch claimed that many of the red notices requested by China were “politically motivated”. It urged Interpol to take steps to curb abuse of the red notice system, while establishing measures to prevent wrongful arrests and extradition.
“Interpol claims to operate according to international human rights standards, but China has already shown a willingness to manipulate the system,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said.
“And with China’s vice-minister of public security – a notoriously abusive agency – as president, Interpol’s credibility is on the line,” she said.
Meng Hongwei, China’s vice-minister of public security, is the agency’s current president, but the position is regarded as largely ceremonial, as day-to-day operations are controlled by full-time Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
The rights group said China’s record of arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearance, as well as unlawful forced repatriation, meant that the subjects of Interpol red notices issued on its behalf could be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
Additional reporting by Reuters