RCMP ‘actively investigating’ Chinese government police stations following arrests in U.S.
Investigations into allegations that China operated illicit “police stations” in Canada are still underway, the RCMP said following the arrests of two suspects accused of running one such centre in the United States.
The RCMP has identified a handful of nondescript offices in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver that Beijing has allegedly used to promote its political interests and harass and intimidate Chinese-Canadians.
No charges have yet been laid in Canada, but the FBI announced on Monday it had arrested the leaders of a U.S. non-profit accused of running a similar Chinese police station in New York City.
Although Beijing has denied operating any clandestine police stations, the unsealed FBI investigation has provided new details about the Chinese government’s foreign influence program — as well as hints of its spread into Canada.
The FBI said a photo found on the phone of one of the suspects, Lu Jianwang, showed the official opening ceremony for overseas police stations in Spain, France, the Netherlands and Canada.
The photo could help advance the RCMP investigations. The RCMP declined to discuss details of its probes but said it “works closely with our Five Eyes partners to respond to and maintain situational awareness of all threats to national security.”
The U.S. has charged Jianwang and Chen Jinping with acting as unregistered agents of the Chinese government. Jianwang was president of the American Changle Association, according to U.S. charity records.
An address listed in the Changle Association’s tax returns, obtained by Global News, matches the location of what the FBI called a “police service station for overseas Chinese” that opened in New York City in 2022.
The Manhattan “police station” was set up by the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau, a branch of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, or MPS, the FBI alleged in its complaint. Fuzhou is a city in China’s Fujian province.
“The MPS routinely monitors, among others, Chinese political dissidents who live in the United States and in other locations outside the PRC,” the FBI wrote in its complaint against Lu and Jinping, who are both U.S. citizens.
“The MPS has used cooperative contacts both inside the PRC and around the world to influence, threaten and coerce political dissidents abroad. Indeed, I am aware that the PRC government has threatened and coerced Chinese political dissidents living in the United States in an effort to silence them.”
Despite widespread complaints that China has used the same tactics in Canada, no arrests have resulted. The RCMP believes the Chinese police stations that operated in Canada have closed or re-located.
Unlike the U.S., Canada does not require foreign agents to register with the government. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began public consultations on a registry in March following news reports about foreign interference in Canada’s elections.
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The proposal is getting pushback from within the Liberal caucus, however, with one MP, Chandra Arya, sponsoring a petition against it, and Trudeau invoking Second World War internments as reasons for caution.
In recent years, China’s Communist Party has begun working aggressively overseas to counter what it calls the Five Poisons — Uighurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong, pro-democracy dissidents and Taiwan independence advocates.
The ministry of public security is a key part of the foreign interference effort, and has been accused of operating police stations in dozens of countries to silence critics of the Communist Party and promote Beijing’s narratives.
The RCMP began investigating last year after the Spanish non-profit group Safeguard Defenders identified three alleged police stations in the Toronto area. One was in a property owned by the Canada Toronto Fuqing Business Association.
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In British Columbia, RCMP are investigating the Wenzhou Friendship Society, which is a member of the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations. Alleged police stations in Montreal and Brossard are also being probed by Quebec RCMP.
“The RCMP is actively investigating reports nationally of criminal activity in relation to the so-called ‘police stations,’” RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival said on Tuesday.
“The RCMP recognizes that Chinese Canadians are victims of the activity we are investigating. There will be no tolerance for this or any other form of intimidation, harassment, or harmful targeting of diaspora communities or individuals in Canada.”
The U.S. investigation found that Jianwang had a “longstanding relationship of trust” with the Chinese government, notably the ministry of public security and the United Front Work Department, which is responsible for attacking Beijing’s opponents.
The FBI complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges he worked with Chinese security officials to organize a pro-Beijing counter-protest in Washington, D.C., tracked down “persons of interest” to China and helped establish a police station in Manhattan.
“The investigation has revealed that, on or about Jan. 10, 2022, the FPSB (Fuzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau) officially launched an initiative with the goal of establishing overseas police service station facilities worldwide in a ceremony held at Wuyi Square Park, Fuzhou, PRC,” the FBI wrote.
Jianwang confirmed attending the ceremony, the FBI said, and admitted posing for a photo with a Chinese public security official holding a sign reading: “Fuzhou Public Security Bureau, Overseas 110 Report to Police Service Station.” The FBI said 110 was the emergency phone number in China — the equivalent to 911.
The FBI said it had interviewed three victims harassed by the association run by Jianwang and Chen. One victim faced “repeated unsolicited telephone calls from purported members of the Association and threats of violence,” the FBI said.
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Another victim was “harassed on multiple occasions by individuals whom he believes to be proxies for the PRC government, including having his/her vehicle broken into immediately after he/she delivered a pro-democracy speech, and receiving harassing telephone calls and electronic messages.”
During interviews with the FBI, Jianwang said he was part of a group on the social media application WeChat that was moderated by a Chinese public security ministry official who served as director of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.
The group, titled Fuzhou Overseas Chinese Service Group, had about 65 members and included other Fuzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau officers, the FBI alleged. Jianwang was also in a second WeChat group called “First Batch of Overseas Service Centers.”
According to the FBI, around the time Safeguard Defenders released its report identifying police stations around the world, the Chinese official used the WeChat group to notify Jianwang and Chen the New York station would “pause” operations.
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