China’s Overseas Police Service Stations in the Middle East 

China’s Overseas Police Service Stations in the Middle East 

Chinese Overseas Police Service Stations are known to be present in Israel and the UAE. However, their specific locations, functions, and extent are shrouded in secrecy.

China’s footprint in the Middle East has grown significantly over the past two decades. The region has become central to China’s foreign policy within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) framework. Not surprisingly, the exponential growth in trade, investment, and commerce between China and the Middle Eastern states since 2000 has generated a large influx of Chinese nationals, businesses, and capital into the region. The estimated number of Chinese citizens in the Middle East is approximately 1 million, but the transient population of temporary Chinese visitors, merchants, and contract workers might increase the total.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain have emerged as top destination countries for Chinese expatriates in the Gulf. At the same time, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel are the leading destinations for Chinese migrant workers, tourists, and overseas students.

The successful opening of China’s economy has fostered the expansion of Chinese companies and contributed to large diaspora communities of Chinese citizens worldwide. Following a surge of emigration in the 1990s, an estimated 10.5 million Chinese citizens live overseas, and with somewhere between 35 million to 60 million people temporarily traveling or working abroad. Importantly, the Chinese diaspora encompasses workers, emigrants, and dissidents, which has required the Chinese state security agencies to take a new approach to monitor them and assess their political stances. In addition, the growing Chinese diaspora is a primary target of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s United Front strategy to increase its political influence globally.

Thanks to the combination of these trends, the extent of law enforcement activity by Chinese agencies outside their home country’s jurisdiction against Chinese nationals has recently increased. The reports of “Chinese Overseas Police Service Centers” are part of this picture.

According to the human rights group Safeguard Defenders, which first drew attention to the issue in 2022, China has 102 overseas police stations in 53 countries spanning five continents. The considerable size of Chinese overseas communities has allowed China to field an extensive global presence through these stations. The Chinese overseas service stations network is managed by China’s Ministry of Public Security and operated by local-level public security bureaus from three Chinese provinces (Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Fujian). Their official tasks are to help Chinese citizens overseas with administrative issues, such as renewing their driving licenses.

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