Dutch foreign ministry investigating reports that China set up two purportedly illegal police stations in Netherlands

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The Dutch foreign ministry is “investigating” reports that China has set up two purportedly illegal police stations in the Netherlands.

“We are investigating the activities of these so-called police centers,” Ministry for Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maxine Hovenkamp said in a statement to CNN Thursday.

Hovenkamp added that the ministry was not “informed about these centers via diplomatic channels.”

China has denied that the centers conduct police operations.

Dutch broadcaster, RTL Nieuws and Dutch investigative journalism outlet Follow the Money published a report on Tuesday claiming that China has opened at least two police stations in the Netherlands since 2018. The two stations are located in Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

The stations operate under the facade of “overseas service stations” where Chinese nationals can renew their driving licenses and report changes in their civil status, according to RTL Nieuws and Follow the Money.

According to RTL Nieuws and Follow the Money, the Dutch government was never informed about the presence of these stations.

Their investigation found “strong indications” that the branches are being used to place pressure on Chinese dissidents in the Netherlands. One young Chinese dissident, Wang Jingyu who has been pursued by Chinese authorities for criticizing the regime on social media, told journalists that he received a call from someone who claimed to be from the Chinese police station in Rotterdam.

“He asked me to go back to China to solve my problems. He also told me to think about my parents,” Wenbin said.

During a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing on Wednesday, spokesperson Wang Wenbin was asked to confirm if China had any police operations in the Netherlands and if he had any response to the RTL Nieuws and Follow the Money reporting.

Responding to these questions, Wenbin said the allegations in the report were “completely untrue” and the alleged police stations are “in fact Chinese service centers.”

“The purpose of the service centers is to help overseas Chinese nationals in need access the platform to have their driving licenses renewed and receive physical examination,” the spokesperson added.

Human rights group Safeguard Defenders published a report in September citing evidence of these service stations in multiple countries, which it claims “eschew official bilateral police and judicial cooperation and may violate the territorial integrity of third countries involved in setting up a parallel policing mechanism using illegal methods.”

The report contained a map of more than 50 publicly documented and labeled overseas police stations which China has referred to as overseas Chinese “service centers,” located across the globe. Since it was published, the Spanish Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into the service stations and the report’s findings.

Meanwhile, the Dutch authorities say they will “decide on appropriate action” once they gain “more clarity on the matter,” according to the statement.

CNN’s Irene Nasser in Hong Kong contributed to this report.