The man behind a Glasgow restaurant accused of being a Chinese secret police station has wined and dined senior Scottish politicians, The Ferret can reveal.
Linhao Lin – aka Jimmy Lin – hosted Alex Salmond while he was first minister and attended Holyrood. Lin was also invited to Westminster and accompanied a former lord provost of Edinburgh on an all expenses paid trip to China.
The address of the restaurant on Sauchiehall Street linked to Lin – Loon Fung – has been under police investigation since being named as a secret police station by human rights organisation, Safeguard Defenders.
Loon Fung is one of 54 alleged clandestine bases across five continents which “violate the international rule of law”. The NGO claimed that secret police stations were set up by a Chinese state body which aims to influence foreign politicians and others.
Chinese secret police used methods like “online or physical means” and “threats and harassment to family members” to persuade 230,000 overseas citizens to return and face potential criminal charges in China in recent years, it said.
The restaurant has denied accusations of wrongdoing. In October, first minister Nicola Sturgeon held talks about Loon Fung with Police Scotland, which confirmed an investigation is ongoing.
The Scottish Greens urged Police Scotland to follow law enforcers in other countries and shut down any alleged secret police stations.
Loon Fung is the trading name of Heng Cheng, a Newton Mearns-based real estate firm of which Xxx Awei is the listed owner and director. We have identified Xxx Awei as Awei Lin, who is also linked to Sichuan House – another Chinese restaurant on Sauchiehall Street, of which Jimmy Lin is a former director.
Awei’s Facebook page includes a picture with Jimmy Lin, who is listed as an Irish citizen and owner and chairman of the Scottish Fujian Chamber of Commerce (SFCC). Overseas secret police reportedly serve officials based in the southeastern province of Fujian.
The SFCC, which Safeguard Defenders claimed is linked to the Chinese state, is registered at the Sichuan House restaurant.
Lin, who once ran a massage parlour a few doors away from Loon Fung, is also chairman of the Glasgow Chinese Recreation Centre (GCRC), which has a stated aim of organising recreational activities for local Chinese residents. The charity failed to provide Scotland’s charity regulator with key financial and other information for the last two years.
Lin’s meetings with Scots politicians
In 2014, days before the Scottish independence referendum, Salmond attended a Chinese Moon Festival celebration at Sichuan House. According to a blog post, the event was “hosted by, chiefly… Jimmy Lin, director [of] Sichuan House and prominent Chinese community leader”.
Lin was pictured alongside Salmond and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, a former SNP MP turned Alba Party chair who “facilitated” the event.
In 2018, Edinburgh’s then-lord provost, Frank Ross, agreed to travel to visit Fuzhou – the capital of the Fujian province – following an invitation from its mayor.
In the 2018 letter, Lin confirmed he would accompany Ross while the SFCC would cover expenses. However, according to Companies House, the SFCC was not incorporated until November 2019 and its only accounts say it is a dormant company without assets or reserves.
A member of Fuzhou’s local government also visited Edinburgh in 2018 to co-sign a letter of intent with Ross to strengthen ties between the Fujian and Scottish capitals. City of Edinburgh Council declined to comment.
Lin has also visited Holyrood. Minutes of a 2018 cross party group on China list Awei and Jimmy Lin of the SFCC as attendees.
Lihe Liu, the founder of Glasgow law firm, LB&Co, is listed as the SFCC’s chief counsel, a UK Chinese embassy legal advisor, and as having worked for the UK Government’s China parliamentary group. There is currently no suggestion that Liu is being investigated by British police.
The charity failed to submit its financial returns, annual reports and external scrutiny reports for both 2020-21 and 2021-22. OSCR said it sends reminders and “may take further action” against future late returns.
In September 2022, the GCRC and SFCC held a Moon Festival event at Loon Fung for China’s representative in Scotland. It was attended by the lord provost and local politicians.
A Glasgow City Council spokesperson said: “The lord provost, as the city’s civic representative, is invited to attend hundreds of events each year… The allegations surrounding Mr Lin are a matter for the police.”
Secret police and political influence
Safeguard Defenders said secret police stations were established by a People’s Republic of China (PRC) state body, the United Front Work Department” (UFWD) to influence politicians and others.
The UFWD “seeks to influence various public and private sector entities outside the PRC, including but not limited to political, commercial and academic spheres,” said Laura Harth, Safeguard Defenders’ campaign director.[The Ferret’s] “findings are consistent with the repeated statements by PRC local public security authorities that these ‘overseas police service centres’ were set up in close cooperation with the UFWD,” she said.
Harth urged law enforcers to investigate whether those linked to secret stations have tried to influence politicians and others. Any probes “should encompass both the wider transnational repression issue as well as the other interference and influence operations these networks are engaged in,” she added.
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China’s executive director, Luke de Pulford, said: “We are only at the very start of understanding the extent of the nefarious activities of these illegal stations. The UK has been wilfully blind to the activities of the United Front for years, and far too unwilling to take the action necessary to prevent infiltration.
“But, while Westminster politics has had something of an awakening to the true face of the Chinese Communist Party in the past recently, it’s pretty clear that Scotland is still stuck in the Golden Era. Let’s hope this report is a wake up call and marks a change in approach.”
The Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said: “Countries including Ireland and the Netherlands have taken swift action against the secret Chinese police stations operating in their territories. I hope and expect Police Scotland and UK intelligence agencies will provide an update on their own inquiries into this alleged Glasgow base in the near future.”
Police Scotland’s detective chief superintendent, Stuart Houston, said: “Officers visited a restaurant on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow as part of ongoing enquiries. We are continuing to assess all information, in conjunction with local and national partners.”
Jimmy and Awei Lin, Loon Fung, Sichuan House, the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh, Liu Lihe, Alex Salmond, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Patrick Grady did not respond to requests to comment.
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