Two fake Chinese police cars have been spotted at different locations in Australia, sparking fears that the Chinese Government might be trying to intimidate locals as pro-Hong Kong demonstrations ramp up around the country.
Photos emerged from South Australia of a car parked at several locations around Adelaide’s CBD. The car was sporting Chinese characters and what appears to be the markings of China's Ministry of Public Security—the same ministry that gets accused of making Chinese political dissidents disappear and keeping China's 1.4 billion civilians under one party control.
Meanwhile, police in Western Australia confirmed that they had received reports of a similarly-marked vehicle driving around Perth, according to the ABC.
The sightings come amid escalating tensions between local pro-democracy protesters and pro-China activists. Rallies have taken place at multiple locations around Australia, several of which have escalated into violence—including at Adelaide’s Rundle Mall on Sunday. The organiser of that rally, who goes by the pseudonym Charlotte, expressed some concern that vehicles which appeared to belong to Chinese police were being spotted in Australia.
"There are people who feel intimidated by it … to be honest, I don't really know what to make of it. I think it's highly inappropriate, especially when you pretend to represent a foreign law enforcement unit in a Western country," she said. "Initially we thought it was a bit of a joke… [But] since this morning I was told there was actually another one that started first in Perth, so now we are starting to get a bit concerned. Could this be an organised effort by the Chinese Government or is it really just two completely separate instances of a prank?"
A spokesperson for WA Police said officers “spoke to the driver of the vehicle who stated he purchased the decals online. He placed them on his car as a joke and after being spoken to by police has taken them off the vehicle."
SA Police told the ABC that they were aware of the Adelaide vehicle's current location and were investigating if it has been involved in any offences.
SA Premier Steven Marshall, however, suggested that it wasn’t entirely clear whether posing as a police officer from another country was in violation of Australian law.
"My understanding is that the police are doing an investigation, they've been able to identify the vehicle, now they're trying to figure out whether there has been any breach of any of the existing laws," he said. "Of course, it's illegal to impersonate a police officer in South Australia, so the police are now conducting that investigation to see whether or not a breach of the state laws has occurred."
Marshall admitted that it was "quite a curious situation".
This article originally appeared on VICE AU.