Since 2014, the Chinese regime has forced nearly 10,000 overseas Chinese to return to China under a program that uses coercive methods ranging from family intimidation to threats by Chinese agents operating on foreign soil, human rights groups allege.

A report by Safeguard Defenders, a human rights NGO based in Spain, charged on Tuesday, Jan. 18, that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is conducting illegal operations on foreign soil against dissidents of the regime, including Chinese citizens who have voiced criticism of the CCP.

One of the programs is called Operation Fox Hunt and was launched in 2014 to track down those wanted for economic crimes, while Operation Sky Net began in 2015 and was later incorporated into Fox Hunt, Channel News Asia noted.

According to government figures extracted by the NGO, despite restrictions on entering China due to Covid closures, at least 1,421 people were returned to China in 2020 and 1,114 in 2021. These figures only account for those wanted for economic crimes. But from February 2021, it was extended to “fugitives” in political and legal affairs and civil matters.

Uighurs, Hong Kongers living abroad, and other ethnic and religious minorities are also believed to be falling victim to these programs to make them return to China against their will.

Among the coercive methods used by the regime is non-renewal of a passport, exit bans, and intimidation of family members. Among the most serious are what the NGO Safeguard Defenders called “state-sanctioned abductions,” which the regime calls “irregular methods,” involving undercover operations coordinated with the host country.

For Example, in 2015, Swedish bookseller and citizen Gui Minhai was allegedly abducted in Thailand before reappearing in Chinese custody.

Also, two years after that event, billionaire businessman Xiao Jianhua disappeared from a Hong Kong hotel and is believed to still be in custody in China.

Last year, an Associated Press report revealed that Wang Jingyu, 19, a permanent U.S. resident wanted by the Chinese regime for comments critical of the CCP on the Chinese social networking site Weibo, was detained in Dubai by police. Then released under press pressure, he claimed that his parents were repeatedly harassed and detained to get him to return.

Researcher for Human Rights Watch, Yaqiu Wang, warned host countries to handle with caution extradition requests made by the Chinese regime.

“They should ensure individuals residing in their countries that are wanted by the Chinese government have adequate protection, and investigate possible harassment and other abuses by Chinese officials or their agents against these individuals or their family members,” he said.

“Authorities should also provide them with adequate opportunity to contest the extradition, and not return anyone to China if they are likely to face persecution, torture or ill-treatment there,” the researcher warned. 

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