‘Dangerous’: Concerns raised about possible Chinese ‘secret police station’ in Vancouver

Click to play video: 'Rights group claims Chinese secret police station in Vancouver'
Rights group claims Chinese secret police station in Vancouver
WATCH: An international human rights group says it has found evidence of a secret Chinese police station operating in Metro Vancouver. – Dec 6, 2022

The revelation that  Vancouver has at least one secret police station operated by Chinese authorities is a cause of great concern, say local experts.

A Spanish civil rights group, Safeguard Defenders, revealed in a report that there were Chinese police operations around the world, including three in Toronto and at least one in Vancouver.

Victor Ho, the former editor of the Sing Tao Daily – Canada’s largest Chinese-Canadian newspaper – and a Hong Kong democracy activist, said he was not surprised to hear the news and it has created a lot of insecurity in the Chinese-Canadian community.

The report looked into how these police stations function under a “persuasion of return” strategy using intimidation and threats to enforce the “involuntary” return of immigrants back to China for persecution.

The group claimed that between April 2021 and July 2022, Chinese police “persuaded” 230,000 claimed fugitives to return to China.

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The report said the newly documented Vancouver-based police station is being operated by authorities from Wenzhou in China’s Zhejiang province.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau grilled again about alleged Chinese interference in Canada’s democratic process'
Trudeau grilled again about alleged Chinese interference in Canada’s democratic process

“No matter from Hong Kong, from the mainland, from Taiwan, even from Singapore or Malaysia because their human security will be jeopardized by this so-called police station. It deals with not only with mainlanders but with overseas Chinese (people),” Ho said.

“You may be subject to be criticized or selected by these so-called police stations (and they could) harass you or come to your office to make known their presence.”

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Ho said this is a very dangerous scenario and sends a message that the Chinese government doesn’t honour any international law.

“Because if you have such policing affiliates with related country or countries, you should adhere to a bilateral policing agreement with countries or cities,” he said. “But with this Chinese policing station, they are a kind of hidden police authority but without consent of local government. So it also violates policing sovereignty here.

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“It is a very dangerous example and is a symbol that the Chinese government is exercising their power without limits and without any international laws.”

Ho said someone who may be a target of these Chinese police operations would be someone who is an economic fugitive or political dissident. Someone who is vocal about their opposition to the Chinese Communist Party would also be at risk, he said.

Immigration lawyer and policy analyst, Richard Kurland said he thinks this report is a cry for public attention to get resources allocated to public security institutions, like CSIS and RCMP.

“So yes, this kind of thing has happened, is happening and likely will happen in the future but there’s no reason why we have to make it easy for them,” Kurland told Global News, speaking of the so-called Chinese police station.

“We have seen, in the immigration caseload, individuals physically present, right here in British Columbia, from that community who have complained and testified and provided affidavits to the effect that the government of China, directly and indirectly, coerced Canadian relatives on Canadian soil into convincing a Chinese citizen to go back and face the music in the mainland.”

Kurland added everyone should remember China does not adhere to the same Western standards of democracy.

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“Punishment is not meted out to (an) individual but to the entire family,” he said. “The closest we’ve seen over the past decades is during the rule of Stalin when, in the former Soviet Union, they used to burn down an entire village to catch a couple of guilty guys. That’s their system. But there’s no reason why we have to make it easy for them to operationally allow this to happen.”

Kurland said the Chinese government is interested in individuals who are residing here, they are not undertaking mass surveillance of a large number of people.

“We have an obligation to protect our Canadian citizens, our permanent residents who have connections to the mainland,” he added.

Click to play video: 'RCMP investigating possible foreign interference in Canada’s democratic processes'
RCMP investigating possible foreign interference in Canada’s democratic processes

Global News contacted the Chinese Embassy and Global Affairs but did not hear back.

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However, the embassy has previously described the Chinese offices as volunteer-run service stations to process things like driver’s licences.

Ho would like to see the Canadian government investigate and step in where necessary. “Second, this so-called unlawful Chinese station should be dismantled and abandoned.”

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Melanie Joly, told reporters recently that 2022 has revealed that the tectonic plates of the world power structures are moving.

“China is an increasingly disruptive global power,” she said.

Joly recognized that China’s “sheer size” means that Canada cannot fully disengage from dealing with the country. The Chinese government’s cooperation is necessary, she said, to address issues like global health, climate change and nuclear non-proliferation.

Still, she issued a sharp critique of China’s increasing expansionist ambitions — which have seen it tighten its grip on Hong Kong, and threaten Taiwan’s independence — as well as its widely documented human rights abuses of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.

“It seeks to shape the global environment into one that is more permissive for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours,” Joly added.

– with files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Rachel Gilmore 

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