Friday, December 2, 2022

Ottawa seeking talks with China’s ambassador over secret police stations

Ottawa seeking talks with China’s ambassador over secret police stations

Human-rights groups are reporting China operates secret overseas police stations in more than 50 locations around the globe to keep tabs on citizens abroad.

The Spain-based group Safeguard Defenders says three locations operate in Toronto, but the Chinese embassy in Canada calls them  "volunteer-run service stations" to process things like driver’s licences. Really?

The RCMP said in early November that it is investigating the issue, and officials told MPs in early October that they were aware of the claims.

READ MORE: The RCMP is investigating Chinese ‘police’ stations in Canada. Here’s what to know

On Tuesday, a senior foreign-affairs official said that in recent weeks, his department has called in Chinese ambassador Cong Peiwu multiple times over the issue.

Opposition parties say Ottawa should have been more forthcoming with that information.

“We’ve had several engagements. We’ve called the ambassador in on multiple occasions to convey our anger and deep concern,” said Weldon Epp, the director general for North East Asia.

He offered that confirmation while speaking to MPs at the House committee on relations with China.

“The government of Canada has formally insisted that the Chinese government, including the ambassador and his embassy, take account for any activities within Canada that fall outside of the Vienna Convention … and ensure that they cease and desist,” Epp said.

Click to play video: 'RCMP investigating possible foreign interference in Canada’s democratic processes'
RCMP investigating possible foreign interference in Canada’s democratic processes

He was referring to United Nations rules that provide diplomatic immunity to mission officials, who in turn agree to not interfere in internal affairs.

That includes only offering administrative services at embassies and consulates, provided by people who are officially accredited to do that work.

Epp was responding to questions from MPs on what steps GAC had taken since his last appearance at the committee on Oct. 4, when he said he was aware of the claims of overseas police operations.

“The activity that’s being alleged would be entirely illegal and totally inappropriate, and it would be the subject of very serious representations and follow-up diplomatically,” he told MPs at the time.

Epp said Tuesday he couldn’t disclose whether his colleagues are reviewing the credentials Canada has granted to Chinese diplomats.

READ MORE: Toronto businessman allegedly focus of Chinese interference probes: sources

On Wednesday, Conservative MPs said Global Affairs should have told the public it had called in the ambassador.

“We really need to see more clarity and transparency from the federal government, and leadership from the prime minister,” said Alberta MP Laila Goodridge.

“Canadians should not be waiting for information to be trickling in slowly, and only as absolutely pressed by this committee,” she said.

Liberal MP Jean Yip said last week that one constituent had asked her about reporting on the police stations, including one in her riding, but that none had told her about any personal experience with the agency.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that he raised the issue of interference directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Indonesia, who later berated him for exposing the media about their conversations.

Really Trudeau?

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