A Quebec charity suspected of hosting two secret Chinese “overseas police stations” has received more than $4.45 million (£2.65 million) from the Canadian government over the last three years.
According to the Montreal Gazette, the Service à la Famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal (SFCGM), which purports to provide support to the Chinese community, is really used by Beijing to monitor and intimidate its citizens in Canada.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) believe this is one of two secret police stations in Quebec, which has nearly 92,000 people of Chinese origin.
There has been growing anxiety about the network of secret Chinese police stations across the world, which are accused of routinely harassing exiles on behalf of Beijing’s authoritarian regime.
Canada halts contacts with charity
The discovery that public money has been funnelled into Beijing’s outposts in Canada will be embarrassing for Justin Trudeau, the country’s Liberal prime minister.
Kelly McCauley, a Canadian Conservative MP, said he was “stunned” that no attempt had been made to recoup the money.
Most of the cash came from Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration, Francisation and Integration, with the money ostensibly paying for French courses for the Chinese community.
The ministry has since halted all remaining contracts with the group.
Official records in Canada also show there were five contributions from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to the group.
An ESDC spokesman said it had given $25,000 to the New Horizons project, which helped elderly Chinese people to use the internet to keep in touch with their families.
Other donations included cash from the government’s Canada Summer Jobs programme, which provided employment for students.
Benjamin Fung, spokesman for the pro-democracy group Action Free Hong Kong Montreal, said these schemes were typical of those used by Beijing to keep an eye on its citizens overseas.
“If this is really a police station from China, they can use the funds to expand their network and their connections,” he said. “This is also one way to monitor the many international Chinese students that are here.”
Tasha Adams, a police spokesman, said the RCMP was investigating the SFCGM as part of a larger investigation intended to “detect and perturb criminal activities supported by a foreign state that can threaten the safety of people living in Canada”.
However, SFCGM criticised the Canadian police in a statement on its website, warning that the inquiry could cause “serious and potentially irreparable harm to the community”.
Network of secret police stations
It is believed Beijing has established a network of dozens of stations abroad, including in Canada, the UK and the Netherlands.
Last month, it emerged that RuiYou Lin, a 40-year-old businessman who was allegedly connected to a secret Chinese police station in Croydon, south London, was also a prominent fundraiser for the Conservative Party.
Mr RuiYou is vice-chairman of the Chinese Group for the local Conservative association in the Cities of London and Westminster constituency. He has been pictured with Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Sajid David.
Labour MPs demanded an explanation after it emerged he had also reportedly attended Chinese Communist Party conferences and was connected with the United Front Work Department (UFWD), an agency that gathers intelligence on people and organisations inside and outside the country.
When asked about his involvement, Mr RuiYou said he had been “set up” by a rival company.
Last month in the US, the FBI arrested two Chinese Communist Party agents who were allegedly operating two such stations in the heart of New York City.
According to New York prosecutors, the Chinese National Police directed one of those arrested, who was a US citizen, to locate a pro-democracy activist living in California.
The two men have been charged with obstruction of justice and accused of destroying evidence, as well as conspiring to act as agents of the People’s Republic of China.
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