An alliance of international legislators, including Republicans in Congress and exiled Chinese activists, is opposing efforts by a top Chinese internal security official to join the leadership of Interpol.
Hu Binchen, the deputy director general for the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, is one of three candidates from Asia running for the region’s two spots on Interpol’s 13-member executive committee, with the vote being held during the group’s annual congress in Turkey on Thursday.
Interpol, with its 194 members, controls a vast quantity of law enforcement data and legal databases that are shared with its membership, including China, which has long been accused of abusing Interpol to go after Chinese dissidents and others who criticize the Communist Party.
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a group comprising legislators from around the world who advocate standing up to the Communist Party, released a letter this month condemning Hu Binchen’s bid to join Interpol, calling upon international leaders to oppose the Chinese official’s candidacy and to reform Interpol’s “Red Notice” system for pursuing fugitives, which they said is exploited by China.
Interpol says a Red Notice “is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.”
The letter, signed by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher, along with dozens more from around the world, said the Chinese government “has repeatedly abused the Interpol Red Notice to persecute dissidents in exile.”
The group specifically pointed to Uyghur activist Idris Hasan being arrested in Morocco following a since-deleted Red Notice filed by the Chinese government, warning that “Hasan could still face extradition to the PRC where he is likely to be a victim of arbitrary detention and torture.”
IPAC also said the Chinese government “has a history of leveraging Interpol committee positions to exert undue influence on the organization.” They pointed specifically to the election of Meng Hongwei, the former vice-minister of public security in China, to the position of Interpol president in 2016, which “reportedly saw attempts to interfere with the functioning and political neutrality of the Interpol General Secretariat.” The legislators warned that “as the PRC government seeks to use Interpol as a cover for its repressive policies abroad these attempts to exert undue influence will only increase.”
“By electing Hu Binchen to the Executive Committee, the General Assembly would be giving a green light to the PRC government to continue their misuse of Interpol and would place the tens of thousands of Hong Konger, Uyghur, Tibetan, Taiwanese and Chinese dissidents living abroad at even graver risk,” IPAC contended. “Allowing Interpol to be used as a vehicle for the PRC government’s repressive policies does great harm to its international standing.”
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security also runs a global extrajudicial repatriation effort dubbed “Operation Fox Hunt” , and last year, the Justice Department announced the arrests of five people, including a former New York Police Department officer, accused of acting as illegal agents at the direction of the Chinese Communist Party as they attempted to coerce U.S. residents into returning to China .
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in response to the Interpol controversy, “China’s proposal of suitable candidates for the Executive Committee of Interpol is a specific measure to actively support the organization’s goals of combating terrorism, transnational crime, and ‘making the world safer’ as a member of the organization, and to make positive contributions to international police cooperation.”
Interpol claimed that “no individual member of the Executive Committee has any involvement or influence in the decision-making process to publish or cancel a Red Notice” and that the organization exists to provide “a neutral platform for police to work directly with their counterparts, even between countries which do not have diplomatic relations.”
Another letter — this one signed by the president of the World Uyghur Congress, the president of the Hong Kong Democracy Council, and dozens of other Uyghur, Hong Konger, and pro-freedom Chinese activists — also warned against allowing the Chinese security official into Interpol’s leadership.
A November report by human rights advocacy group Safeguard Defenders warned about China’s “misuse” of the Interpol system, including “prolonged detention and arbitrary arrest on the basis of Red Notices of activists and persecuted ethnic or religious minorities abroad; harassment and intimidation of political dissidents; improper use of Interpol notices to induce ‘fugitives’ to return ‘voluntarily’; and the wider intimidation and harassment of communities within China.”
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse also sent a letter directly to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Attorney General Merrick Garland this week, calling on them to oppose Hu Binchen’s efforts to join Interpol’s executive committee.
Sasse also asked how Blinken and Garland were working to “minimize the CCP’s damaging and destabilizing influence at Interpol.”
A State Department spokesperson did not respond directly to the Washington Examiner’s questions on whether the Biden administration was opposing Hu Binchen’s bid.
“The United States strongly supports Interpol as a vital law enforcement agency essential to protecting global security. We continue our long-standing general practice of not revealing our vote in secret ballot elections, other than to campaign on behalf of U.S. candidates,” the spokesperson said. “In general, we support candidates for each seat whose records represent the impartiality, integrity, and respect for human rights and the rule of law that Interpol strives to embody, and encourage other Interpol members to do the same.”
The spokesperson added, “We believe it is imperative that candidates elected to Interpol’s leadership bodies will further reforms to curb the mis-use of Interpol notices by authoritarian regimes.”