A Vancouver, B.C. man has pleaded guilty to human smuggling offenses, after being accused of running an elaborate scheme that may have helped hundreds of Chinese citizens illegally cross the border at Peace Arch State Park.
In B.C. provincial court on July 29, Michael Kong, 62, pleaded guilty to four of the seven counts of human smuggling of which he has been accused. The offenses to which Kong has pleaded carry a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in jail, if Crown prosecutors can prove that the crimes were committed for profit or in association with organized crime. The Crown is seeking a sentence that exceeds the minimum.
According to a story by the National Post, Kong operated a smuggling operation that brought Chinese nationals into Canada illegally. First, they flew to the U.S. on valid travel visas, before making their way to Seattle. After getting dropped off at or near Peace Arch State Park in Blaine, they simply walked to the Canadian side of the park, which connects the U.S. and Canada and has no physical barriers.
An email uncovered during the investigation and translated from Chinese instructed the border crossers to “smile” and “be natural” when walking through the park, and to pretend to take pictures. “If someone questions, the answer is, I’m only tourist … not going to Canada,” the email reportedly said.
The border crossers were then picked up on the Canadian side of the park and transported to Canadian cities, where many of them later filed refugee claims. The scheme may have helped hundreds of Chinese citizens enter Canada illegally. Electronic ledgers, or “score sheets,” found on a computer in Kong’s home listed the names of more than 900 foreign nationals believed to have been smuggled between 2011 and 2016.
Kong was arrested in September 2018 and was charged under section 117 of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with seven counts related to human smuggling between 2014 and 2015 involving 34 migrants, some of them children. Kong’s adult son Matthew is also accused of participating in the scheme, and has pleaded not guilty to lesser charges under the same act.
The National Post’s investigation revealed lax oversight at the park, and found that Canadian authorities could not agree on which agency – the CBSA or the RCMP – was responsible for patrolling the Canadian side of the park.