Canada’s immigration minister said he is confident that there are no security concerns about allowing a company owned by the Chinese police to manage Canada’s visa application centre in Beijing, despite calls from opposition MPs to cancel the contract.
VFS Global, the company that manages the Canadian visa application worldwide, uses a subcontractor—Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service—to run its visa centres in Beijing. The company is reportedly owned by the Beijing Municipal Public Security, the police agency in the Chinese capital.
According a Globe and Mail report on Tuesday, a staggering 86 percent of employees in the Beijing visa centre work for Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service, while only the remaining 14 percent of the staff is hired by VFS Global.
At the Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan asked Immigration Minister Marco Medicino if the Liberal government has considered the possibility of espionage, since an arm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is allowed into Canada’s visa application process.
“The Chinese Communist Party develops a fake identity with an attempt to infiltrate our overseas visa office, via espionage and collect visa applications and then runs them through the hiring process for the subcontractor,” Hallan asked.
He said the Chinese Ministry of State Security has manipulated innocent civilians to unknowingly helping spy on Canada’s allied nations.
“How do we know that VFS employee are not compromised? As even one Chinese spy could destroy the entire functioning of the office and cause a significant security threat,” Hallan said.”
NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan noted that the chair of Beijing Shuangxiong is a secretary in the CCP and the company’s general manager is a deputy secretary.
“The truth is the entire structure stinks and this is a huge conflict of interest for the safety of applicants,” she said.
Mendicino insisted that the Canadian government has “rigorous security” measures for vetting and monitoring employees who work at its visa application centres. He said the equipment in the offices also ensure the secrecy of sensitive personal information used for visa applications.
“I am confident with the protocols we have put in place to manage the risks in foreign environments, including in China,” Mendicino said. “The screening and vetting, which is undertaken by our contractors, ensures that there is a standard that is applied uniformly across government to the reliability status.”
“We are eyes wide open on this issue and we’ll continue to manage these risks carefully going forward,” he added.
Hallan also questioned the risks it would pose for a pro-democracy Chinese activist seeking to flee to Canada when applying at a visa centre affiliated with the communist regime.
Last year, the Immigration Department introduced a pathway that would allow more Hong Kong residents to come to Canada, following China’s passing of the national security law, which allows Beijing to tighten its grip over the region’s electoral system and further restrict independence.
Mendicino said that China’s introduction of the law would not obstruct pro-democracy protesters from coming to Canada.
“No Hong Kongers will be prevented from coming to Canada or claiming asylum, because they have participated in peaceful protests,” Mendicino said.