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China accused of systemic kidnapping and coercion

DW, 18 Jan 2022
An NGO claims, China is using kidnapping and coercion as tools, to bring wanted fugitives abroad back to the country. All this in violation of international law.
Today, the NGO Safeguard Defenders released its latest report "INvoluntary Returns: China's covert operation to force 'fugitives' back home" The Communist Party calls these repatriations, ‘voluntary returns’, but Safeguard Defenders argues, they are anything but. Such as the case of China’s one time most wanted corruption suspect Yang Xiuzhu. This is her in 2016, being escorted off a plane, upon her quote ‘return’ to Beijing. A former Communist party official accused of embezzlement, she arrived from the United Sates where she had been in hiding. Safeguard Defenders claims her family members had been threatened in China, forcing Yang to return. The NGO claims there are three main methods that China uses to coerce overseas targets to return. First of all, as in Yang’s case, pressure on the target's family in China. That ranges from threats, to harrassment and public shaming, to actual detention of family members. If that doesn't work, China will dispatch agents to whatever country the target happens to be in, to use more direct methods of persuasion, that can include intensive surveillance and stalking. And if those means are exhausted, the report documents case studies of covert teams actually kidnapping and smuggling people back to China. Its all part of China's so-called "FoxHunt" and "SkyNet" programmes, that seek to bring back fugitives from abroad and cut their access to finances. But as the report from Safeguard Defenders says, China's actions violate international law. The NGO's campaign director Laura Harth explained how that was the case.

In recent months, well-known media outlets in Hong Kong, such as Apple Daily, Stand News and Citizen News, have had no choice but to shut shop. It's prompted journalists to abandon Hong Kong for safety abroad.


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