Canada’s national police service has announced that it has begun an investigation into alleged criminal activity at the Chinese police stations reportedly set up in Ontario.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) revealed the investigation in a statement to CP24 without specifying the nature of the reported criminal activity nor the locations of the so-called police stations in the Greater Toronto Area.
“The (force) takes threats to the security of individuals living in Canada very seriously and is aware that foreign states may seek to intimidate or harm communities or individuals within Canada,” RCMP spokesperson Camille Boily-Lavoie was quoted as saying. “As the RCMP is currently investigating the incident, there will be no further comment on the matter at this time.”
Spanish-based non-government organization Safeguard Defenders claimed that while the stations present themselves as offices that assist Chinese citizens living abroad, they also serve a more sinister purpose.
The NGO has been looking into what it has deemed a coordinated effort by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to force Chinese nationals living abroad accused of fraud to return home.
In its 21-page report released last month, the NGO noted that China reported it has successfully “persuaded” 230,000 fraud suspects to return home between April 2021 and July 2022.
According to Safeguard Defenders, China has opened a total of 54 police “service stations” in 30 countries, including three in Canada’s Greater Toronto Area.
“It is important for all individuals and groups living in Canada, regardless of their nationality, to know that there are support mechanisms in place to assist them when experiencing potential foreign interference or state-backed harassment and intimidation,” the RCMP further stated.
The report highlighted the different schemes the stations have implemented, including depriving suspects’ children in China the right to education and other penalties faced by the suspects’ relatives who were deemed “guilty by association.”
The report stated: “Whether the targets are dissidents, corrupt officials or low-level criminals, the problem remains the same: The use of irregular methods – often combining carrots with sticks – against the targeted individual or their family members in China undermines any due process and the most basic rights of suspects.”
The lawmakers accused the Chinese police service stations of coercing “purported Chinese fugitives abroad to return to China to face legal proceedings, which is euphemistically dubbed as ‘persuading to return’ in Chinese parlance. By doing so, China avoids scrutiny on its human rights record in relation to repatriating alleged fugitives overseas by eschewing formal international cooperation mechanisms.”
In a statement to CP24, the consulate general of the People’s Republic of China in Canada denied the stations’ involvement in “any criminal investigation or relevant activity,” noting that their local volunteers are not Chinese police officers.
“In order to solve their practical difficulties, the local authorities in Fujian, China, have set up an online service platform,” the consulate said. “For services such as driver’s license 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.”
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