Chinese spies are reported to be highly active in Belgium, according to a report (pdf) published this year by the Belgian Security Service, the VSSE. The Belgian capital Brussels is also the administrative center of the European Union.
“China’s activities in Belgium are not limited to the classic spy stealing state secrets or the hacker paralyzing an essential industry or government department from behind his PC,” the government report reads.
Instead, many Chinese intelligence gatherers engage “in a gray zone between lobbying, interference, political influence, espionage, economic blackmail, and disinformation campaigns.”
The security agency raised concerns about the fact that the Communist regime’s close association with corporate interests in the country makes it extremely challenging to identify potential intelligence assets.
“This makes for a tangled web of interactions, with many state and non-state actors harboring ties with China,” the VSSE states. “This is a game at which China is extremely adept. The hold that the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party exert on companies allows them to make them part and parcel of their long-term strategy.”
According to the research, many CCP intelligence agents are not employees of the communist regime at all, but rather Chinese private individuals who serve the government out of an affinity for the regime—or through subtle persuasion and manipulation from state authorities.
Politicians Voice Concern
The findings have sparked concern among Belgian politicians, such as Flemish Member of Parliament Kristof Slagmulder, from the Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang party in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region.
“When one thinks of spies, one often thinks of films such as James Bond, but this is not true,” Slagmulder said in a recent article on the Vlaams Belang website. “Often these are diplomats, lobbyists, journalists, employees, companies, or even students who are actively gathering information to pass on to an intelligence officer.
“China is actively expanding a network to ensure Chinese influence in Europe,” he said. “It is therefore not inconceivable that students will also be used for this.”
The Flemish MP called for a probe into the potential role that Chinese students in Belgium could play in CCP espionage efforts. He noted that the authorities frequently overlook this type of Chinese national.
“It may look innocent and nuanced, but in times of conflict all weapons can be used to bring a country to its knees,” Slagmulder said. “We must therefore keep our knowledge safe and actively work toward a safer Flemish higher education by optimizing and possibly tightening up the procedures for Chinese students.”
No Chinese Police Stations
In September 2022, a report by Safeguard Defenders stated that agents of the Chinese regime are operating covertly in countries around the world, using secret police stations as a base of operations to surveil Chinese dissidents, and even coercing Chinese expatriates to return to China.
An updated report titled “Patrol and Persuade” released in Dec. 2022 sheds more light on the scale of the network, and how joint agreements facilitated the Chinese regime in spreading its transnational policing across the globe.
The later report showed that there are some 102 overseas China-run police outposts in 53 countries around the world. Some stations were even set up with help from the host countries.
However, Belgium is not currently on the list of European countries that have Chinese police stations in operation.
Dismantling the CCP’s Overseas Apparatus
After the emergence of the first report, the regime denied running undeclared police stations abroad, and called the allegations an attempt to smear China’s reputation.
But Safeguard Defenders stated that despite the fact that Beijing was not directly in charge of the stations, “some statements and policies are starting to show a clearer guidance from the central government in encouraging their establishment and policies.”
The initial report has spurred investigations in at least 14 countries to date.
Ireland and the Netherlands have closed the Chinese police stations that were discovered in their countries, and inquiries are being conducted in Spain. Canada has filed official complaints to the Chinese Ambassador over reports of unofficial Chinese police service stations operating in Canada.
In April, two men were arrested in New York for allegedly operating a secret police station in Manhattan on behalf of China’s communist regime. Those arrests were part of several cases bringing charges against more than 40 Chinese agents over their alleged involvement in various schemes that aided the communist regime’s transnational intimidation and propaganda efforts.
According to court documents, the two men who were arrested had operated a local Chinese association that organized busloads of pro-Beijing supporters to travel to Washington and serve as counter-protesters during Xi’s 2015 trip.
“The arrest of Chinese Communist Party agents involved with setting up the illegal CCP police station in New York is a small but important victory for American sovereignty and dissidents fleeing oppression who have made America their home,” Rep. Michael Gallagher (R-Wis.) told The Epoch Times.
“The CCP’s mafia tactics—surveillance, harassment, blackmail, assault, and the persecution of elderly parents, spouses, and children back in China—cannot be tolerated in America.
“The United States must remain a haven from persecution, not a hunting ground for dictators.”
Eva Fu contributed to this report.