China’s Unofficial Police Stations in Toronto Part of Growing ‘Transnational Repression’: Report

China’s Unofficial Police Stations in Toronto Part of Growing ‘Transnational Repression’: Report
A file photo of an aerial view of Toronto East and Scarborough near the 401 Highway in Ontario. The City of Markham is seen in the distance. (Shutterstock)
Andrew Chen

Chinese police have set up three unofficial overseas “service stations” in Toronto as part of an operation that now consists of over 50 similar offices in dozens of countries, says a new investigative report.

These operations “eschew official bilateral police and judicial cooperation” and show the worrying growth of “transnational repression” and “long-arm policing” by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the report said, noting that the stations have reportedly targeted not only criminals and corrupt officials but also dissidents.

Titled “110 Overseas: Chinese Transnational Policing Gone Wild,” the report was published in September by Spain-based human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders. A “‘first batch’ of 30 overseas police service stations were established in 25 cities in 21 countries” in January 2022, it said.

The stations, totalling 32 at the time of the report’s publication, are under the jurisdiction of the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau in Fuzhou City, Fujian Province–a branch of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. They are also known as “110 overseas,” named after the police emergency phone number, 110, in China.

Another 22 such stations have been established in 22 cities in 17 countries under the police jurisdiction in Qingtian County, Zhejiang Province, and “one can assume the list of such stations goes far beyond what can be presented here,” the report said.

The Globe and Mail reported on Sept. 21 that it visited three addresses in the Greater Toronto Area that are on a list of overseas Chinese police service stations published by a Chinese state media, two in Markham and one in Scarborough.

All three stations are located in areas with large Chinese populations, but the Globe said no one they spoke to in the area was aware of a police service station or had heard of the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau.

Of the two Markham addresses, one was a private home while the other was a mall full of small Chinese businesses and restaurants. The third property, in a business park near a highway, is owned by the Canada Toronto FuQing Business Association, a federally incorporated non-profit.
A woman walks out the meeting room after a plenary session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11, 2013. The CPPCC is a key part of the Chinese regime's united front organization. (Feng Li/Getty Images)
A woman walks out the meeting room after a plenary session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11, 2013. The CPPCC is a key part of the Chinese regime's united front organization. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

Gloria Fung, president of Canada-Hong Kong Link, told The Epoch Times that the CCP’s overseas operations had been “subtle” in the past but that she finds the direct establishment of overseas police stations a “very rampant” act of the Chinese regime.

“I am monitoring this issue, and how the three-levels of government in Canada view this, how our media view it, and how the communities perceive it. This is the first time that I have ever seen a foreign government’s police department publicly establishing a branch here [in Canada]. ... I find it a very absurd and very rampant operation,” Fung said.

‘Persuaded to Return’ to China

In addition to the “110 overseas” stations, the Safeguard Defenders investigation also looked into a related campaign launched by the CCP in 2018 aimed at combating fraud and telecommunication fraud by Chinese nationals living abroad. Chinese authorities have claimed that an estimated 230,000 overseas Chinese nationals have been “persuaded to return” to China to face criminal charges between April 2021 and July 2022.

The report said “persuasion to return” is a key method of the Chinese government’s “involuntary returns” operations, which include its “Fox Hunt” operation and broader “Sky Net” campaign. The method entails either “tracking down of the target’s family in China in order to pressure them through means of intimidation, harassment, detention or imprisonment into persuading their family members to return ‘voluntarily,’” or directly approaching the target “through online means or the deployment of—often undercover—agents and/or proxies abroad to threaten and harass the target into returning ‘voluntarily,’” according to the report.

Fujian Province’s Anxi County was named by China’s State Council in 2018 as a “key rectification area of the origins of criminals going overseas for fraud.” Subsequently, Fujian provincial departments at all levels were instructed to carry out five measures against fraud suspects, including demolishing any property allegedly built using illicit money, banning the suspects’ children from studying in public schools, and suspending all medical insurance subsidies and confiscating the passports of the suspects. These actions were “to be taken before any suspect was taken before a court of law,” the report said.

Such measures “leaves legal Chinese residents abroad fully exposed to extra-legal targeting by the Chinese police, with little to none of the protection theoretically ensured under both national and international law,” the report said, noting that Chinese authorities are also targeting non-suspects living abroad.

“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.”

Nine Forbidden Countries

The report said that Chinese authorities have designated nine countries as having serious fraud, telecom fraud, and web crimes and are forbidding Chinese nationals to stay in those countries without “good reason.”

The countries include Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

However, the report noted that “among suspected criminals there are also entirely innocent people simply living in the wrong country, as well as victims themselves who have been forced into such illegal acts through threats, smuggling and intimidation.”

One such example is a woman referred to under the pseudonym Li Qingqing, from Yuanzhuang township, Xianyou County, Fujian, who runs a restaurant in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital. On March 11, Li was asked by the Yuanzhuang police to return to China, despite her insistence that she was not a suspect of any crime.

“[But] the police told her that according to the government’s policy, Chinese citizens staying in the nine fraud-related countries are required to return unconditionally. After that, she continually received messages from the local police asking her to return,” the report said.

On May 5, police informed Li that she had been put on the telecom suspect list and warned that her mother’s house would be cut off from power and water supplies. Her mother’s house was later spray-painted with the words “House of Telecom Fraud” and a policy notice was posted next to the spray-painting.

Li’s mother was also called to her village committee and asked to persuade Li to return to China by May 31, the report said, citing a now-removed article from a Chinese-language outlet. It is unclear whether Li has returned to China.

Links to United Front System

The Canada Toronto FuQing Business Association (CTFQBA), which owns the property where one of the three 110 overseas stations in Toronto is located, says on its website that it was established “under the guidance” of a number of Chinese and Fujianese government organizations, including a municipal committee of the United Front Work Department, according to the Globe article.

During a session of the Thirteenth People’s Congress of Fujian Province this March, CTFQBA honorary president Weng Guoning praised the 110 overseas program, saying it gave him “the warmth” of the motherland, reported the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese. This federation is also a key organization run by the United Front, according to a report titled “The Party Speaks for You” published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in June 2020.

The Epoch Times made multiple attempts to contact CTFQBA for comment. Someone from the organization who answered a phone call didn’t respond to questions. Subsequent calls were unanswered.

The Safeguard Defenders report said that “at first glance at least some of the associations abroad are tied to the United Front system”—an agency that is “seeking to co-opt and influence ’representative figures’ and groups inside and outside China, with a particular focus on religious, ethnic minority, and diaspora communities.”

“Rapidly emerging evidence points to extensive online campaigns and the use of ‘Overseas Police Service Stations’ being used in these operations on five continents, often using local ’Chinese Overseas Home Associations’ linked to the CCP’s United Front Work,” the report said.

“Overseas hometown associations, while often providing genuine services to the community, have by now become overwhelmingly co-opted by the CCP’s United Front organizations, which seek to increasingly control the Chinese diaspora.”