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China

Activists call for probe into China’s ‘consular volunteers’ network

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The Chinese Communist Party is running a global network of “consular volunteers” through its embassies and consulates who form part of its “United Front” influence and enforcement operations on foreign soil, according to a new report, prompting calls for democratic governments to investigate.

While Chinese embassies and consulates have been using such informal networks for at least a decade, they were recently formalized through a State Council decree that took effect on Sept. 1, yet the networks remain largely undeclared to host countries, the Spain-based rights group Safeguard Defenders said in a report published this week.

Consular volunteers are mostly drafted in to help with administrative tasks linked to consular protection, risk assessments, and even “warnings and advisories” to overseas citizens and organizations, the report said, citing multiple online recruitment advertisements and other official documents.

This gives them full access to individuals’ personal information, and “may also dangerously enhance their function of control over overseas communities and dissenters,” the report warned.

China is already known to rely on an illegal, overseas network of “police service centers” that are sometimes used as a base from which to monitor and harass dissidents in other countries.

Since taking power in 2012, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has launched an accelerated expansion of political influence activities worldwide, much of which rely on overseas community and business groups under the aegis of the United Front Work Department.

Under the radar

While Beijing has shut down some of its overseas police “service centers” following protests from host countries, the “consular volunteer” network has managed to fly under the radar until now, further enabling China’s overseas influence and illegal transnational law enforcement operations, according to the report.

According to the State Council decree, “The state encourages relevant organizations and individuals to provide voluntary services for consular protection and assistance.”

The state also “encourages and supports insurance companies, emergency rescue agencies, law firms and other social forces” to take part in consular work, it says.

A building [with glass front] suspected of being used as a secret police station in Chinatown for the purpose of repressing dissidents living in the United States on behalf of the Chinese government stands in New York City’s lower Manhattan on April 18, 2023. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The decree also requires Chinese nationals overseas to “abide by the laws of China,” regardless of location.

Organizations and individuals that “make outstanding contributions to consular protection and assistance” are to be commended and rewarded, it says.

And official reports on volunteer commendation ceremonies and training events show that they are – under the supervision of individuals with “direct and demonstrable ties to the CCP’s United Front,” the Safeguard Defenders report said.

“The [consular volunteer] network runs through United Front-linked associations and individuals and shows the involvement of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office,” it said, adding that the Office was labeled an “entity that engages in espionage” by the Federal Canadian Court in 2022.

Global effort

A March 2023 recruitment drive by the Chinese Embassy in the Czech Republic posted to an official website called for volunteers from among “overseas Chinese, international students, Chinese employees of Chinese-funded enterprises and other individuals in the Czech Republic, overseas Chinese groups, Chinese-funded enterprises and other organizations, institutions and groups.”

Similar notices have been seen in Trinidad and Tobago, Botswana, Turkey, Malaysia, Johannesburg, Equatorial Guinea, Chile and Japan, the report said, adding that the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office has also been directly named as a participant at training events for consular volunteers in Rio de Janeiro and Florence, Italy.

According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, “the United Front system acts as a liaison and amplifier for many other official and unofficial Chinese organizations engaged in shaping international public opinion of China, monitoring and reporting on the activities of the Chinese diaspora, and serving as access points for foreign technology transfer.” 

The Safeguard Defenders report called on democratic countries to review the practice of “consular volunteering” by Chinese diplomatic missions, and warned them not to take part in United Front-linked events.

French current affairs commentator Wang Longmeng described consular volunteers as quasi-spies.

“The so-called assistance in providing consular services actually means collecting financial support from overseas Chinese individuals,” Wang said. “This can help the Chinese Communist Party control overseas Chinese remotely, making them loyal to party and state, as well as helping China to steal Western technology and intelligence.”

“These people are also collecting information on dissidents, and many dissidents’ family members back home are also being threatened,” he said. “This is a quasi-espionage organization and an integral part of the Chinese Communist Party’s transnational repression network.”

Wang said European countries have been fairly slow to catch on to such practices, compared with the United States.

“That encourages the Chinese Communist Party to extend its long arm even further,” he said. “Their intention was never to stop transnational repression and United Front work,” he said, calling for EU legislation to curb such activities “as soon as possible.”

APEC summit

Zhou Fengsuo, executive director of the U.S.-based Human Rights in China, said China’s consulate in San Francisco had engaged in the large-scale mobilization of patriotic protesters during President Xi Jinping visit last week to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit in the city..

“The Chinese Communist Party will take up every bit of space it can in democratic societies to extend its rule and engage in state persecution,” Zhou told Radio Free Asia.  “Consulates wield a great deal of power overseas.”

“Much like it did with overseas police stations, the international community needs to face up to this form of [Chinese] government control.”

After Chinese international student Tian Ruichen took part in protests supporting the “White Paper“…

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Revealing the Encouraged Industries of Hainan in 2024: Unlocking Opportunities

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The 2024 Hainan Encouraged Catalogue, issued by the NDRC, MOF, and STA, aims to boost industries in the Hainan Free Trade Port. It prioritizes sectors like tourism, modern services, and high technologies, offering incentives for foreign investment and market access expansion since 2020. The Catalogue includes 176 entries across 14 categories, with 33 new additions focusing on cultural tourism, new energy, medicine and health, aviation, aerospace, and environmental protection.


The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the State Taxation Administration (STA), has issued the Catalogue of Industries Encouraged to Develop in Hainan Free Trade Port (2024 Version), hereinafter referred to as the “2024 Hainan Encouraged Catalogue.” The updated Catalogue took effect on March 1, 2024, replacing the previous 2020 Edition.

Beyond the industries already addressed in existing national catalogues, the new entries in the 2024 Hainan Encouraged Catalogue are based on practical implementation experiences and the specific needs within Hainan, prioritizing sectors such as tourism, modern services, and high technologies.

The Hainan FTP has been providing incentives to draw investors to invest and establish businesses in the region, especially foreign investment. Alongside a phased approach to opening the capital account and facilitating free capital movement, Hainan has significantly expanded market access for foreign enterprises since 2020, particularly in sectors such as telecommunications, tourism, and education.

The Hainan Encouraged Catalogue comprises two main sections:

Similar to the approach adopted by the western regions, foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) should always implement their production or operations in accordance with the Catalogue of Encouraged Industries for Foreign Investment.

On top of the industries already addressed in existing national catalogues, the 2024 Hainan Encouraged Catalogue encompasses 14 distinct categories and a total of 176 entries especially encouraged in the region, including 33 new additions compared to the 2020 Edition. These new entries predominantly span cultural tourism, new energy, medicine and health, aviation and aerospace, and ecological and environmental protection, among others.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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Key Guidelines for Companies in Compliance Audits for Personal Information Protection Standards

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China’s standards authority has released draft standards for personal information protection compliance audits, potentially making them mandatory for companies in 2023. The audits will require companies to undergo annual or biennial checks based on the number of people’s information they handle. The draft standards outline the audit process and requirements, seeking public feedback until September 11, 2024.


China’s standards authority has released draft standards for conducting personal information protection compliance audits. Regular compliance audits to ensure compliance with personal information protection regulations may become a requirement for companies in China under draft measures released in 2023. We explain the audit processes and requirements proposed in the draft standards.

The Standardization Administration of China (SAC) has released a set of draft standards for conducting personal information (PI) protection compliance audits. Under draft measures released by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) in August 2023, companies that process the PI of people in China are required to undergo regular compliance audits.

Specifically, companies that process the PI of over one million people must undergo a compliance audit at least once a year, while companies that process the PI of under one million people must carry out an audit at least once every two years. 

While the draft measures stipulate the obligations of the auditing body and the audit scope, the draft standards outline the specific audit process, including evidence management and permissions of the audit organization, as well as the professional and ethical requirements of auditors. 

The Secretariat of the National Cybersecurity Standardization Technical Committee is soliciting public feedback on the draft standards until September 11, 2024. Public comment on the draft measures released in August last year closed on September 2, 2023, but no updated document has yet been released. 

The draft standards outline five stages of the PI protection compliance audit: audit preparation, implementation, reporting, problem rectification, and archiving management. 

Auditors are required to accurately document identified security issues in the audit working papers, ensuring that the records are comprehensive, clear, and conclusive, reflecting the audit plan and its execution, as well as all relevant findings and recommendations. 

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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A Comprehensive Guide to China’s Expanded 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit Policy at 37 Ports

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China has expanded its 144-hour visa-free transit policy, allowing travelers from 54 countries to visit certain areas without a visa. Zhengzhou in Henan Province and eight cities in Yunnan Province are now included. The policy aims to promote people-to-people exchange and requires travelers to meet specific requirements.


China has expanded the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, which allows people from certain countries to enjoy six days of travel to select areas of the country without applying for a visa beforehand, to cover 54 countries and 37 ports. Zhengzhou in Henan Province and eight more cities in Yunnan Province can benefit from this policy as of July 15, 2024. Amid China’s continuous efforts to promote people-to-people exchange, we explain who is eligible for the 144-hour visa-free transit and where in China you can travel on this special entry permit.

The National Immigration Administration (NIA) has expanded China’s 144-hour visa-free transit policy to 37 ports as of July 15, 2024. Zhengzhou aviation port in Henan now offers this policy, with the stay limited to the administrative region of Henan Province. The stay range of Yunnan Province’s policy has been expanded from Kunming to eight other cities (prefecture-level) including Lijiang, Yuxi, Pu’er, Chuxiong, Dali, Xishuangbanna, Honghe, and Wenshan. Additionally, Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport, Lijiang Sanyi International Airport, and Mohan Railway Port have been added as ports applicable to the 144-hour visa-free transit policy.

In this article, we explain how this 144-hour visa-free transit policy works and summarize some frequently asked questions.  

Under the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, foreign travelers can enjoy a six-day stay in certain Chinese cities without a visa, provided they come from 54 eligible countries, enter and exit China from eligible ports, stay within the allowed cities and regions, as well as satisfy other requirements.  

To obtain this visa exemption, the foreign national must have a valid passport from one of the 54 countries, which are: 

As per the requirements of China’s National Immigration Authority (NIA), people applying for 144-hour visa-free transit must have: 

You may also be required to answer some questions at immigration control upon arrival.  

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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