A Richmond city councillor who was once B.C.’s top cop says the RCMP needs to swiftly determine whether a mainland Chinese townsman association was hosting an illegal foreign police operation at its Richmond clubhouse.
A Dec. 5 report from a China-focused human rights organization based in Spain said that the Wenzhou Public Security Bureau set up a police station in Vancouver.
A black Ford RCMP sport utility vehicle was photographed parked on Browndale Road around 10 p.m. on Dec. 10, across from the Wenzhou Friendship Society clubhouse. The same vehicle was in the same spot midday Sunday. Global TV reported that officers went door-to-door on Saturday, asking neighbours questions about the clubhouse.
Coun. Kash Heed, the former West Vancouver police chief who was solicitor general in 2009 and 2010, said if the Wenzhou police operation is substantiated, it must be suppressed immediately and addressed directly with the Chinese government.
“We are a sovereign nation,” Heed said. “When you have foreign governments or the appearances of foreign government interfering in our systems, whether there are protective service systems or even our political system, it is very concerning and it has to be responded to immediately.”
Cpl. Kim Chamberland of the RCMP’s national headquarters confirmed in a statement that the RCMP is investigating reports of criminal activity relating to so-called “police stations,” but declined to provide any details of the investigation.
“The RCMP recognizes that Chinese-Canadians are victims of the activity we are investigating,” Chamberland said. “There will be no tolerance for this or any other form of intimidation, harassment, or harmful targeting of diaspora communities or individuals in Canada. It is important for everyone to recognize that Chinese Canadians are the victims of this type of activity and it is important that we support the Chinese community.”
The report by Safeguard Defenders said there was evidence of at least 102 “Chinese Overseas Police Service Centres” in 53 countries, including one in Vancouver under the jurisdiction of Wenzhou, a major port city in Zhejiang province.
Three police stations in Toronto under the auspices of Nanzhou were identified in a September report by Safeguard Defenders on the same topic.
Wenzhou Friendship Society made headlines during the 2018 local government elections when the society hosted fundraising events and endorsed candidates in several municipalities. Among those it supported were incumbents Coun. Chak Au in Richmond and Coun. James Wang in Burnaby. The society also backed unsuccessful Richmond mayoral candidate Hong Guo and Vancouver mayoral contestants Wai Young and Fred Harding. The society offered a $20 transportation allowance on WeChat to get out the vote. RCMP investigated the alleged vote-buying, but no charges were laid.
That was the first election after amendments to campaign financing laws that allowed only individuals to donate. Heed said both the laws and enforcement need strengthening, in order to keep foreign influence out of Canadian politics.
“The brazen attitude of some of these foreign countries certainly needs to be challenged. If we don’t challenge them now, our freedoms, our civil liberties of everyone on Canadian soil is, threatened,” Heed said.
Heed also said there is also a role for civic bureaucracies to ensure that societies which operate clubhouses for whatever purpose are adhering to all relevant bylaws.
A phone call to the Wenzhou Friendship Society on Sunday morning was answered by someone who initially said they didn’t speak English. The person then said nobody was available: “No, today is off day.”
The Safeguard Defenders report said the vast majority of the police stations were set up beginning in 2016 motivated by a desire to “harass, threaten, intimidate and force targets to return to China for persecution.” More than a dozen governments have launched investigations.
Coincidentally, the RCMP canvassed in the neighbourhood on the 21st anniversary of the Wenzhou Friendship Society’s Dec. 10, 2001 incorporation.
The clubhouse is valued at $2.04 million according to B.C. Assessment Authority and has a Hazelbridge Way address.
The society’s filings with the provincial government say its purposes are to engage fellowship of all members and their friends, enhance community stability and world peace, conduct charitable activities, assist in environmental conservation, conduct vocational training or language learning classes for members, establish a library and “to build, lease or rent a clubhouse for the gathering of members and friends for lectures, debates, singing or worship for education, recreational or religious purposes.”
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