British Columbia

B.C. criminals prey on Chinese students' fear of police

Police say that some B.C. criminals are preying specifically on visiting Chinese students because they are less likely to report extortion and other crimes.

20,000 international students from China are studying in B.C.

Police say that some B.C. criminals are preying specifically on visiting Chinese students because they are less likely to report extortion and other crimes.

The Vancouver Police Department said that language and cultural barriers make some foreign students less likely to contact police when they've been victimized.

Ziggy Hui, a student from Hong Kong studying IT at Simon Fraser University, said that his first instinct as a victim wouldn't be to call police.

Vancouver police Sgt. Terry Yung and Vancouver Chinese Consul General Liu Fei say that international students need to know they can seek help from the police. (CBC)

He also said that many foreign students like himself aren't even sure who to call to report a crime.

"Should I call RCMP or should I call police? For me, I'm a little bit confused," Hui said.

Randy Yang, a Chinese international student from the province of Fujian, said some Chinese students would be reluctant to contact authorities. He said he knows many who have lived in fear of police back at home.

"In my country, all the police departments are a terrible place. If you have crime problem, [and you] go to police department, they could do anything to you," Yang said.

Vancouver Police Sgt. Terry Yung said that some criminals specifically target foreigners, who often come to Canada with money and who aren't always aware of their rights under Canadian law.

He said many of the students feel apprehensive about going to police.

"They were told by the suspects that because you're not a Canadian citizen, nor a permanent resident, the police might not be as interested in helping you," Yung said.

"We're here to put the record straight: The Vancouver police outreach to all members of the community regardless of whether you are international students — as long as you are residents of Vancouver," he said.

Video on YouTube

In order to help get the message out to exchange students from China, the police force teamed up with the Chinese Consulate-General in Vancouver to produce a Mandarin-language outreach video that has been posted to YouTube.

In the video, the Vancouver Police Department explains that its Chinese-speaking officers and Chinese Community Policing Centre are among the many resources students can use.

Police insist the video is not a response to the international media storm created by the slaying of Chinese student Jun Lin in Montreal this year. Police also said the video wasn't motivated by the 2009 kidnapping of an 18-year-old Chinese student, who was held for a $1 million ransom.

The Chinese Embassy said that around 20,000 Chinese international students, mostly between the ages of 14 and 22, are now studying in B.C.

It said the release of the police video was a proactive step to help keep them safe.

With files from the CBC's Mychaylo Prystupa and Calyn Shaw