RCMP looks to speak with anyone harassed by alleged Chinese 'police service stations' in Toronto area

Safeguard Defenders lists this single-storey commercial building in Markham, Ont. as one of the three so-called Chinese 'police' stations in Canada. (Idil Mussa/CBC News - image credit)
Safeguard Defenders lists this single-storey commercial building in Markham, Ont. as one of the three so-called Chinese 'police' stations in Canada. (Idil Mussa/CBC News - image credit)

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police says it is looking to speak with anyone who might have been threatened, harassed or intimidated by alleged undeclared Chinese "police service stations" in the Greater Toronto Area.

The call from the RCMP comes approximately one month after CBC News first reported that the federal police service is investigating reports of police stations operating on behalf of the People's Republic of China, following a report by the Spain-based human rights group Safeguard Defenders.

According to the group, more than 50 such locations exist worldwide, including three in the Toronto area — a residential home and single-storey commercial building in Markham and a convenience store in Scarborough.

The group's campaign director previously told CBC News that in most countries, the alleged police stations are more likely to be a network of individuals rather than a physical location that people might be brought to.

The Chinese embassy told CBC News local authorities in Fujian, China, had set up an online service platform to assist Chinese nationals abroad with things like driver's licence renewals — but that the stations are serviced by volunteers who are "not involved in any criminal investigation or relevant activity."

However, the RCMP says it is investigating possible "foreign actor interference," which refers to illegal activity targeting Canadian interests, interfering in Canadian society or threatening national security. That includes attempts to "threaten, harass, influence, intimidate, corrupt or discredit individuals, organizations and governments to further the interests of a foreign country," the RCMP said in a statement Tuesday.

"The RCMP is aware of reports of activities that are specifically targeting the Chinese diaspora in Canada and is investigating to determine any criminality related to this matter."

FBI director 'very concerned' about stations

On Capitol Hill last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the U.S. is deeply concerned about the possibility unauthorized police stations are on its soil.

"I'm very concerned about this. We are aware of the existence of these stations," Wray told a U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, acknowledging but declining to detail the FBI's investigative work on the issue.

"But to me, it is outrageous to think that the Chinese police would attempt to set up shop, you know, in New York, let's say, without proper coordination. It violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial and law enforcement cooperation processes."

China has meanwhile pushed back on those claims, insisting the sites are not "police service centres" but rather volunteer-run sites to assist overseas Chinese nationals.

"They are not police personnel from China. The U.S. side should stop the groundless hyping of this issue," Embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu Liu, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, told Reuters.

The embassy did not respond immediately to a Reuters request for a list of the sites.

Earlier this month, China's foreign ministry said the same about sites in the Netherlands after the Dutch government ordered their closure amid a probe into their activities. Members of the British parliament have also called for investigations into similar sites.

Anyone with information about the alleged police stations or those associated with them is asked to contact the RCMP's National Security Information Network at 1-800-420-5805 or email RCMP.NSIN-RISN.GRC@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.