According to a report by Spain-based human rights organization Safeguard Defenders, Beijing has established a “Consular Volunteer” mechanism over the past decade. The Consular Volunteer Programs, which operate out of Chinese consulates in foreign countries, engage in information gathering, infiltration, and surveillance globally. Beijing does not notify host countries about such programs, violating the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The report follows Safeguard Defenders’ disclosure last year of over 100 overseas police stations established by the Chinese government in more than fifty countries.
Such “Consular Volunteer networks” have been established in several dozen Chinese overseas communities, including in the U.S., Belgium, Sweden, Italy, the U.K., Spain, Greece, Portugal, France, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Turkey, Chile, Malaysia, Japan, the UAE, South Africa, and other countries across five continents. The report by Safeguard Defenders has released an investigative report titled “China’s Consular Volunteers.”
According to the report, the programs would recruit Chinese overseas individuals, some unpaid but provided with operational expenses directly managed by the consulate. Working as “volunteers,” these individuals are controlled by the Chinese government to engage in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) united front work.
The CCP’s integraiton of overseas united front networks with consular services has enabled it to systematically obtain personal information, home addresses, and contact details of different targets. The gathered information may be used to systematically harm or manipulate overseas groups or use coercive means against those who have political views unaligned with Beijing.
The Safeguard Defenders report noted that the G7 group issued a joint statement after its May 2023 summit in Hiroshima, explicitly demanding that China comply with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Just a few months later, China’s State Council promulgated a set of “Consular Protection and Assistance Regulations,” effective starting September 1, 2023, which encouraged Chinese overseas consulates to recruit volunteers and to recognize and reward the volunteers’ performance.
Radio Free Asia, November 22, 2023
SafeguardDefenders.com, November 21, 2023