Secret Chinese police stations allegedly operating in Canada and in dozens of countries around the world are a cause for concern in regard to the forced return of individuals to China as well as intimidation of individuals’ family members at home and abroad, says a senior RCMP officer.
“There is a collective concern on this topic, which has been expressed both domestically and internationally. This is not only because these alleged police stations have been reported to be operating in the Greater Toronto Area, but also reportedly around the globe,” said Brigitte Gauvin, RCMP acting director for federal policing and national security, testifying at the House committee on Canada-China relations on Feb. 6.
“This is concerning for several reasons. These alleged police stations may contribute to the involuntary return of individuals to China. Also, families living in both China and Canada may become the target of harassment, intimidation, or experience other negative consequences.”
Gauvin noted that the activities of the Chinese police stations “would be operating outside of existing Canadian legal mechanisms” if they are proven to be consistent with the media reports and the reports published by Safeguard Defenders.
Safeguard Defenders, a Spain-based human rights NGO, brought the world’s attention to the “overseas Chinese service stations” in a report released in September 2022.
The report, titled “110 Overseas: Chinese Transnational Policing Gone Wild,” investigated claims made by the Chinese authorities that, as part of a nationwide campaign to combat telecommunication fraud committed by Chinese nationals living abroad, an estimated 230,000 individuals had been “persuaded to return” to face criminal proceedings in China between April 2021 and July 2022.
Safeguard Defenders noted that Beijing’s campaign, which started on “a humble scale” in 2018, was bolstered by the overseas police stations, whose number is “clearly expanding rapidly.” The NGO’s September 2022 report identified 54 police stations operated by two provincial-level police bureaus in China. An update report, published in December 2022, identified two other provincial-level police jurisdictions in China that have also been running similar outposts, bringing the total known Chinese police service stations to 102, with an overall presence in 53 countries.
What raised particular concerns, as reported by Safeguard Defenders, was that some of those police stations have also allegedly targeted non-suspects, using methods including intimidation, harassment, and threats against the target’s family members in China.
When asked about the response of GTA residents when approached by the RCMP for interviews in relation to those Chinese police stations, Gauvin said some showed signs of fear of retribution.
“Certain people are reluctant [to speak with the RCMP] due to a fear of retaliation on the part of these foreign actors,” she said, adding that the RCMP is “fully cognizant of the fact that there are some family members of those individuals who are still in China and also back home in Canada who may be subjected to intimidation.”
Chinese Police Stations in Canada
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, who also testified at the House committee on Canada-China relations on Feb. 6, confirmed that the police are “currently … looking at three of the police stations in Toronto and one in Vancouver.”
This is the first time that the RCMP confirmed the number of Chinese police service stations in Canada. Following the reports released by Safeguard Defenders, the RCMP issued a statement in November 2022 saying they have begun an investigation into the matter, and urged any witnesses to share information with police.
The commissioner ensured the public that they can share information with the police in several secure ways, adding that police in uniform have been deployed in marked police vehicles to the Chinese police stations in Toronto. The specific addresses of the three stations in Toronto were mentioned in a local Chinese government news release: one is in a convenience store in Scarborough, one is at a residential home in Markham, and the third is on a property that also serves as the headquarters of the Canada Toronto FuQing Business Association (CTFQBA), a federally incorporated non-profit.
Lucki declined to provide a specific timeline as to when the RCMP’s investigation will conclude. She also confirmed that no one has been arrested or deported for their affiliation with the police stations.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said no diplomatic credentials have been revoked from any Chinese officials in Canada.
“There will be no tolerance for this or any other form of intimidation, harassment, or harmful targeting of Canadians or individuals within Canada, and Canada will continue to stand for our interests and values, both here at home and abroad,” he told MPs at the Feb. 6 committee.