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Interpol elects Chinese cop in charge of pursuing overseas fugitives to senior role

ICPO-Interpol Headquarters in Lyon, France (Massimiliano Mariani, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
November 28, 2021

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

The international policing agency Interpol has elected a top Chinese public security official to its executive committee in the face of widespread criticism from international parliamentarians and rights groups.

Interpol elected top ministry of public security official Hu Binchen serve for a four-year term on the committee, although the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been known to abuse the Interpol “red notice” arrest warrant system to track down peaceful critics of the regime far beyond China’s borders, something that is forbidden under Interpol’s charter.

The move came despite an open letter from 50 members of the International Inter-Parliamentary Coalition on China Policy (IPAC) warning that countries that abuse the Interpol system shouldn’t be given prominent leadership roles in the agency.

Citing the cases of Uyghur activists Dolkun Isa, who was subject to a Chinese Red notice for almost 20 years before it was deleted in 2018, and Idris Hasan, who now faces extradition to China after being arrested in Morocco in July, on the basis of a now-deleted Chinese Red Notice, the lawmakers highlighted “long-standing concerns about China using leadership positions to gain influence in the organization, which in the past has damaged its reputation and reportedly threatened its political neutrality.”

“The candidacy of Hu Binchen is particularly worrying, as he has been known as the right-hand man of Meng Hongwei during his Presidency,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Interpol before the election.

Meng “disappeared” in 2018 while in post as Interpol president, only to turn up in CCP disciplinary detention. He is currently serving a 13-and-a-half-year jail term after pleading guilty to “bribery.”

“Hu Binchen’s candidacy and persona is exemplary of China’s attempts to abuse multilateral institutions for its own repressive interests,” the letter from the 50 IPAC members said.

The Safeguard Defenders rights group said Hu is particularly ill-suited to work at Interpol due to his previous role as international liaison for China’s vast network of electronic surveillance systems, known domestically as Skynet and as Fox Hunt in its international form.

“Via Fox Hunt, the ministry of public security is engaged in chasing alleged fugitives outside of China … and in illegal field operations in other countries, where … teams are sent to intimidate and harass ethnic Chinese to force them to return to China “voluntarily”, and is also known to engage directly in kidnapping operations outside of China,” the group said.

“Voluntary” returns are also secured by targeting the target’s family back in China, it said.

Since its launch in 2014, Fox Hunt claims to have forced 9,000 people to return to face criminal charges in China, of whom only a few hundred used the formal extradition system, it said.

Faced with mounting criticism of its use of Red Notices, China has stopped making its Red Notice requests public.

It warned that China is also increasingly using its own and the Hong Kong national security law as a basis to issue warrants.

“In November 2021, an official stated that being in favour of Taiwan independence constitutes a crime, and that its culprits, including those living outside [China], will be criminally liable for life in the People’s Republic of China,” Safeguard Defenders said in a Nov. 15 report on China’s use of Interpol.