Police investigate claim of secret Chinese police stations in Canada

RCMP looking into ‘reports of criminal activity’ surrounding facilities allegedly used to pressure Chinese nationals abroad

Canada’s federal police force is investigating reports that clandestine Chinese “police stations” are operating in Toronto amid reports of a global network used to target overseas dissidents.

The Royal Canada Mounted Police said it was investigating “reports of criminal activity in relation to the so-called ‘police’ stations” but did not specify the location of the sites.

The police also warned that “foreign states may seek to intimidate or harm communities or individuals within Canada”.

The revelations come days after the Dutch government said it was investigating two suspected stations.

The stations were first identified by Safeguard Defenders, a Spanish civil rights group which alleged the Fuzhou and Qingtian police agencies had between them opened 54 “overseas service centres” in 25 cities across 21 countries, including Canada.

Safeguard Defenders identified a residential home, commercial building and convenience store in the greater Toronto area as the locations of the suspected operations.

China’s embassy has denied the buildings are staffed by police, instead suggesting they are “services stations” meant to offer consular and bureaucratic assistance.

“Due to the Covid-19 epidemic, many overseas Chinese citizens are not able to return to China in time for their Chinese driver’s licence renewal and other services,” the embassy said in a statement. “For services such as driver’s licence renewal, it is necessary to have eyesight, hearing and physical examination. The main purpose of the service station abroad is to provide free assistance to overseas Chinese citizens in this regard.”

The embassy also said the staff were volunteers and not police officers, adding: “They are not involved in any criminal investigation or relevant activity.”

But recently unsealed court documents in New York corroborate accusations that China has engaged in a foreign interference campaign, harassing and surveilling Chinese nationals abroad. In one case, a Chinese citizen living in Canada was pressured to return to China to face charges of embezzling nearly C$380,000 (US$280,000) in public funds.

In the court document, the US alleges the pressure campaign is related to China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and Operation Fox Hunt, which has been used to target both corruption and dissent.

Canadian lawmakers have previously warned of the issue. At a House of Commons special committee on Canada-China relations in early October, the Conservative member of parliament Michael Chong asked Canada’s foreign affairs ministry about the existence of the police stations.

Weldon Epp, director general of North Asia and Oceania at Global Affairs Canada said there was space for “legitimate police liaison cooperation” between countries.

“But the allegations reported in the press would fall well outside of that, and we would have deep concerns if they proved to be true.”

The allegations are likely to once again strain relations between Ottawa and Beijing, which have remained tense following a string of disputes between the two nations, including the arrests of the Huawei executive Meng Wenzhou, and the Canadian businessmen Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.


Leyland Cecco in Toronto

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘A brazen intrusion’: China’s foreign police stations raise hackles in Canada
Beijing says Toronto locations are ‘services stations’ to renew licenses – but China watchers say they monitor and pressure country’s diaspora

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

07, Nov, 2022 @10:30 AM

Article image
Canada issues ‘cease and desist’ warning to China over ‘police stations’ in Ottawa
China accused of illegal activities but Beijing embassy says locations are merely ‘service stations’ to renew driver’s licenses

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

01, Dec, 2022 @4:57 PM

Article image
Canada roiled by leaked intelligence reports of Chinese election ‘meddling’
Trudeau resists calls for public inquiry as leaks spark fierce debate and threaten to dent country’s reputation with allies

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

07, Mar, 2023 @10:30 AM

Article image
Chinese diplomat accuses Trudeau of making Canada 'running dog of US'
Clash is latest between China and Canada in recent months over Beijing’s treatment of its Uighur minority

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

29, Mar, 2021 @7:22 PM

Article image
Huawei: Chinese media says Canada will pay 'heavy price' if CFO isn't released
Country steps up pressure as Canada cancels a trade mission and Meng Wanzhou’s bail hearing adjourned until Tuesday

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

10, Dec, 2018 @5:12 PM

Article image
How a Chinese cafe above a DIY store became the best place to eat in Canada
People queue through an active lumber yard outside Vancouver’s Northern Cafe thanks to it being named Yelp’s top place to eat

Leyland Cecco in Vancouver

24, Feb, 2023 @11:42 AM

Article image
Canada police investigate theft of mummified human toe served in drinks
Yukon bar’s 40-year-old signature drink, the sourtoe cocktail, featured the blackened toe inside – until a customer allegedly ran off with it

Ashifa Kassam in Toronto

20, Jun, 2017 @7:43 PM

Article image
Canada police investigate vandalism of monument to Nazi troops as hate crime
Anti-hate network chair: ‘I’m frankly dumbfounded’ after graffiti on cenotaph commemorating Ukrainian SS division

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

17, Jul, 2020 @7:37 PM

Article image
Canada officials misled Huawei executive, lawyers argue
Meng Wanzhou ‘led to believe case was immigration-related’ but company CFO was in fact held on US arrest warrant

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

24, Sep, 2019 @10:35 PM

Article image
Canada charges electric vehicle battery researcher with espionage for China
Yuesheng Wang, a worker at Quebec’s power utility, is accused of sending trade secrets to China

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

14, Nov, 2022 @10:54 PM