RCMP investigating reports of Chinese 'police stations' operating in Ontario
The RCMP says it’s investigating reports of criminal activity at so-called "police stations" reportedly set up by the People’s Republic of China in the Greater Toronto Area.
According to a recent and ongoing investigation by a Spanish-based non-government organization (NGO) called Safeguard Defenders, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has undertaken a concerted operation to force Chinese nationals living abroad who are accused of telecom and online fraud to return home.
As part of this effort, Safeguard Defenders said China has opened a total of 54 so-called police “service stations” in 30 countries, including three in Canada in the Greater Toronto Area.
It said the stations are often presented as necessary to “accommodate the growing administrative needs of residents abroad – for example in renewing Chinese driver’s licenses remotely and other tasks traditionally considered of a consular nature.”
But the NGO claims that the stations serve a “more sinister goal” as well.
CTV News Toronto has not independently confirmed the NGO report.
In a statement to CP24 on Wednesday, RCMP did not specifically identify where the so-called police stations are located in its statement, nor did it provide any further details about the nature of the reported criminal activity.
"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 said. "As the RCMP is currently investigating the incident, there will be no further comment on the matter at this time.”
"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."
A 21-page report released last month noted China has claimed that 230,000 fraud suspects were successfully "persuaded to return" home between April 2021 to July 2022.
This was done through a number of tactics, the NGO said, including depriving suspects' children back in China of the right to education as well as other consequences faced by relatives who are found to be "guilty by association."
“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 report states.
China’s recently passed Anti-Telecom and Network Fraud Law stipulates that citizens and organizations abroad can have their income confiscated, be fined, and/or face imprisonment upon return to the country. The new law is set to set to come into effect on Dec. 1.
Consulate says stations are for driver’s licence renewal
The consulate general of the People’s Republic of China sent an email statement to CP24 on Wednesday evening, saying the stations are mainly for Chinese citizens renewing their driver’s licence, as many are not able to return to China due to the pandemic.
“In order to solve their practical difficulties, the local authorities in Fujian, China, have set up an online service platform. 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,” the consulate said.
It noted that local volunteers are facilitating the renewal examination.
“The local volunteers are not Chinese police officers,” the consulate said. “They are not involved in any criminal investigation or relevant activity.”
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