China operating 'police' station out of Vancouver, civil rights group alleges
Group has documented 5 Chinese-operated 'police' stations in Canada
A Spanish civil rights group says it has uncovered two new secret "police" stations being operated in Canada, including one in Vancouver.
Safeguard Defenders has published a report revealing the existence of 48 Chinese "police service stations" being operated overseas, in addition to the 54 stations the group initially reported on in September.
The not-for-profit human rights group has documented a total of 102 stations in 53 countries.
The two most recent stations uncovered in Canada, including the Vancouver station and another in an unknown location, add to the three stations the group allegedly located in Toronto and currently under investigation by the RCMP.
According to the initial report, the Toronto stations were located in predominantly Chinese communities and included a residential home and single-storey commercial building in Markham and a convenience store in Scarborough.
The report says the stations are operated out of four Chinese jurisdictions: Nantong, Wenzhou, Qingtian and Fuzhou.
The Vancouver station, whose precise location is not known, is allegedly operated out of Wenzhou, a port and industrial city in China's Zhejiang province.
No one from the Chinese Embassy was immediately available for comment on the new information, but it has previously described the offices as volunteer-run service stations to process things like driver's licences.
However, Safeguard Defenders alleges the stations are involved in "persuasion to return" operations. The group says evidence shows individuals connected to these stations have been involved in persuading nationals suspected of committing crimes to return to China to face criminal proceedings.
The report found that at least one "persuasion to return" operation is being run through a station in Paris and that the Nantong police system has helped in 80 cases of capture or persuasion to return.
"This contradicts PRC authorities' statements that the stations are merely providing administrative services," reads the report.
The Chinese government has also previously claimed that the stations were only set up to help Chinese nationals living overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Safeguard Defenders claims the vast majority of the 48 newly documented stations were set up in 2016.
In September, the RCMP declared it was investigating the Toronto-based stations for "reports of criminal activity in relation to the so-called 'police' stations."
The RCMP also said it takes "threats to the security of individuals living in Canada very seriously and is aware that foreign states may seek to intimidate or harm communities or individuals within Canada."
CBC News has reached out to RCMP in B.C. as well as the Ministry of Public Safety to ask whether the Vancouver allegations raised by Safeguard Defenders are being investigated.
With files from the Canadian Press