Sat, 21 May 2022

Beijing [China], January 19 (ANI): China's global hunt for "fugitives" hit a new milestone just around Christmas last year, as, since its launch in 2014 as part of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign, nearly 10,000 are claimed to have been successfully returned from over 120 countries around the globe under Sky Net (and junior partner Fox Hunt) operations, according to a report by Safeguard Defenders. Beijing brought them by threatening to their families in China, targeting victims in foreign countries and kidnappings abroad, the report said.

The new report goes beyond the few individual cases reported on occasionally in the past, delving deep into their foreign operations and blowing the lid on the use of so-called "voluntary" returns... by any means necessary.

"Any means" is to be taken literally. Legally sanctioned methods under the PRC's National Supervision Law range from detaining family members back in China, to sending police overseas on secret missions to intimidate targets into returning, to outright kidnappings abroad," according to the report released by Safeguard Defenders on Tuesday.

As the research shows, formal legal procedures such as extraditions play an almost non-existent role in the claimed success rate of the Sky Net campaign. Instead, these involuntary returns (IR) account for the vast majority of Sky Net's track record: in 2018, IR stood for some 64 per cent of the claimed successful returns, while extradition - the appropriate judicial channel for such returns - represented but 1 per cent.

The rapidly expanding global practice poses a severe threat to national sovereignty and individual rights everywhere. National awareness and investigations, as well as targeted actions to counter these operations and protect those most at risk are key to upholding the international rules-based order.

Safeguard Defenders' latest report exposes an existing legal interpretation from the party-twin to the body in command of Sky Net: China's new feared super-ministry, the National Supervision Commission (NSC). On the basis of article 52 of the National Supervision Law (2018), it provides the practical terms for how the NSC and Police shall achieve the return of claimed fugitives. This legal interpretation serves as a guide on the numerous categories of methods that can be employed. In its fifth and final category, it states outright:The research behind the report includes a deep dive into 62 cases of both failed and successful attempts at these "voluntary" returns. Based on these, Safeguard Defenders mapped three types of IR (involuntary returns) methods employed. Broadly these are: Threats to family in China, targeting victims in foreign countries and kidnappings abroad.

Chinese human rights defender Dong Guangping had already served three years in prison in China on charges of inciting subversion of state power in the early 2000s and had been disappeared for another eight months in incommunicado detention in 2014. To escape further persecution, he managed to make it to Thailand in 2015, where he was granted official refugee status by the UNHCR. As he awaited resettlement to Canada in a Bangkok immigration detention centre, Chinese police walked in, handcuffed him in front of Thai officers and led him out. Dong later resurfaced in detention in China (there is no official record of his having left Thailand) where he was sentenced to three years in prison. He was freed in 2019 after serving his sentence.

Individuals are not necessarily targeted through one method only. Cases have been recorded were, if one method fails, another is employed. Sky Net is set up to ensure their return at any cost, by any means necessary.

The 10,000 successful returns may represent but part of an iceberg as this number is based on the limited data touted by the CCP which include only successful returns in their publications. As Safeguard Defender's deep dive into 62 individual cases shows, only half of them were successful, according to Safeguard Defenders. (ANI)

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