MONTREAL (AP) — Canadian police are investigating allegations that China is secretly operating two overseas police stations in Quebec, police officials said Thursday.
Canadians of Chinese origin have been victims of activities carried out by the stations, Sgt. Charles Poirier of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said, adding that any type of intimidation, harassment or targeting of diaspora communities will not be tolerated.
The RCMP’s Integrated National Security Team has opened investigations into the suspected police stations in Montreal and Brossard, a suburb just south of the city, he said.
The Spanish human rights organization Safeguard Defenders said in a report last September that there were dozens of Chinese police operations around the world, which activists fear are used to track and harass dissidents.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has described the foreign outposts as service stations for Chinese people who are abroad and in need of help with, for instance, renewing their driver’s licenses. China also has said it has sought to crack down on transnational crimes but that any agents overseas operate in line with international law. The investigation into outposts in Quebec was first reported Thursday in the Journal de Montréal. The RCMP is trying to detect and disrupt “foreign state-backed criminal activities,” which may threaten people living in Canada, Poirier said. The Mounties have created a phone line to report any threats in Quebec.
“The RCMP recognizes that Canadians of Chinese origin have been victims of the possible activities conducted by these centers,” Poirier said. “It is important to support communities that may be affected by these activities.”
The Spanish human rights organization
Safeguard Defenders last September said there were three Chinese police operations in Toronto, and it later identified two more, including one in Vancouver and a second unknown Canadian location. The group has said the stations serve to “persuade” people who Chinese authorities claim are fugitives living overseas to return to China to face charges.
The outposts underscored concerns about the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s influence over its citizens abroad, sometimes in ways deemed illegal by other countries, as well as the undermining of democratic institutions and the theft of economic and political secrets by bodies affiliated with the one-party state. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the presence of Chinese police stations in Canada “concerns us enormously,” adding that it underlines how the primary targets of foreign interference are diasporas living in Canada.
“We’ve known about the (presence of) Chinese police stations across the country for many months, and we are making sure that the RCMP is following up on it and that our intelligence services take it seriously,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
The Irish government has said it told China to close a Fuzhou Police Overseas Service Station operating in Dublin.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, meanwhile, said Thursday Canada refused to give a diplomatic visa to a political operative for China last fall due to concerns about foreign interference.