Canadian federal police said Thursday they are looking into reports that Chinese police have set up police stations in Canada and are harassing Chinese expatriates.
“The RCMP are currently investigating reports of criminal activity at so-called police stations,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement.
In particular, she adds, “she is aware that foreign states may seek to intimidate or harm communities or individuals in Canada.”
The announcement follows an investigation in September by the human rights group Safeguard Defenders, which found 54 similar police stations worldwide, including three in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada’s largest city.
According to the Spain-based NGO, some of these posts cooperate with Chinese police to conduct “operations to maintain order on foreign soil.”
For his part, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin described the information as “completely false,” assuring a regular briefing that Beijing “fully” respects the sovereignty of other countries.
“The main purpose of the overseas service station is to provide free assistance to Chinese citizens to renew their driver’s license and obtain other services,” the Chinese embassy told AFP in Canada.
The organization specifically stated that the people working at these stations were “local volunteers” and not “Chinese police officers”, but said they were not involved in “any criminal investigations”.
Safeguard Defenders, however, says it has evidence to suggest that people linked to these stations have tried to persuade nationals suspected of crimes to return to China to face criminal proceedings.
A court document made public in the United States specifically reveals a case of foreign interference against seven Chinese nationals.
He recounted the example of a woman living in Canada who was forced to return to China in 2018 due to allegations of truancy and who eventually did, despite her “initial reluctance to return,” according to the document.
He also suggested that the Chinese government may have coordinated some of these activities from Toronto.
The Canadian public broadcaster quoted a Chinese journalist and activist as saying that after he left the country to settle in Canada in 1989, he was harassed online by Chinese authorities on several occasions.
“Now the Chinese police station is here, a few miles from my house, so I’m thinking about where to escape,” Sheng Zhu told the CBC.
On Wednesday, Dutch authorities also said they were investigating similar “illegal police stations” in the Netherlands.
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