Police in Canada said on Thursday they are investigating allegations that two Montreal-area centers are being used as Chinese state-backed “police stations” to intimidate or harass Canadians of Chinese origin.
The investigation adds to mounting allegations of Chinese interference in Canada’s internal affairs, including accusations by Ottawa that Beijing tried to influence the last two Canadian elections. China has denied those accusations.
“We are carrying out police actions aimed at detecting and disrupting these foreign state-backed criminal activities, which may threaten the safety of persons living in Canada,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Quebec said in a statement.
Countries including the United States and the Netherlands have carried out similar probes following a report in September by Safeguard Defenders, a Europe-based human rights organization, detailing the presence of dozens of Chinese police “service stations” in major cities globally.
In November, the RCMP in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, also launched an investigation into similar reports of Chinese “police service stations” in the Toronto area. The Ontario RCMP did not respond to a request for information on that probe.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has previously said that there are centers outside China run by local volunteers, not Chinese police officers, that aim to help Chinese citizens renew documents and offer other services disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Quebec RCMP alleged that Canadians of Chinese origin have been “victims of the possible activities” conducted by two centers, in Montreal and nearby Brossard, it has identified as possible police stations run by Beijing.
“These activities and any other form of intimidation, harassment or harmful targeting of diaspora communities or individuals in Canada will not be tolerated,” the RCMP said.
Tensions between Canada and China soared in late 2018 when Canadian police detained an executive of the Chinese company Huawei Technologies Co, which was followed by Beijing’s arrest of two Canadians on spying charges.
All three were freed in 2021, but the relations have remained strained for various reasons, most recently over accusations of election interference by China.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he will appoint an independent special investigator to probe those allegations and also announced separate new probes into the suspected foreign meddling.