- Written by Nadine Youssef
- BBC News, Toronto
The Canadian Federal Police is investigating reports of undisclosed Chinese “police service stations” in the province of Quebec.
The RCMP said it was searching two locations in the Montreal area who were believed to be acting on behalf of Beijing.
Human rights groups have accused China of using the stations to threaten and monitor Chinese citizens abroad.
China denied operating the stations, describing them as “service centers” for its citizens abroad.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was an issue of “extreme concern on the part of his government.”
“We are in the process of making sure that the RCMP is following up on this and that our intelligence systems take this very seriously,” he said.
The stations are believed to be among at least 100 operating worldwide in 53 countries, including the UK and the US, according to Spain-based NGO Safeguard Defenders, which monitors disappearances in China.
In a report last year, the nonprofit said the stations were part of the Chinese regime’s efforts to “harass, threaten, intimidate, and coerce targets back into China for persecution.”
It said China’s public security bureaus had set up “overseas police service centers” on several continents, including two in London and one in Glasgow. In North America, it has found stations in Toronto, Vancouver, and New York.
Last November, the RCMP confirmed that it was investigating reports of such stations operating in the Greater Toronto Area.
On Thursday, the federal force asked Chinese Canadians who may have been targeted by what police called “alleged Chinese police stations” to come forward.
“These activities and any other form of intimidation, harassment or targeting of diaspora communities or individuals will not be tolerated in Canada,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Charles Bourrier said Thursday.
The Federal Police in the United States have expressed concern about similar reports of such stations operating in the country.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told a US Senate hearing in November that China’s attempts to establish a police presence on US soil “violate sovereignty and circumvent standard judicial and law enforcement cooperation procedures.”
Safeguard Defenders reports that an alleged Chinese police station has been set up on Broadway in New York City.
Chinese embassies in the United States and Canada said the sites are “overseas service stations” opened during the epidemic to help overseas citizens renew driver’s licenses and the like.
But Jing Jie Chen, a researcher with Safeguard Defenders, told the BBC he doubted China’s explanation.
“If you really want to support your compatriots abroad, you can use official channels, you don’t have to do it clandestinely,” he said.
The RCMP investigation comes amid allegations that China tried to interfere in the last federal election held in Canada, reports that have strained relations between the two countries.
With additional reporting from Jessica Murphy
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