Peace Arch park straddles two nations with one goal
The British Columbia man accused of helping smuggle possibly hundreds of Chinese migrants across the border into Canada through Peace Arch Park in Blaine reportedly pleaded guilty to some of the charges he was facing Monday, July 29, in provincial court.
Michael Kong, 62, pleaded guilty to four of the seven counts of human smuggling he was facing, according to a story by the Vancouver Sun.
Despite the plea, the court still heard one of the counts that Kong did not plead to, and that count may proceed to trial if the Canada Border Services Agency can arrange travel from China for a key witness, the Sun reported.
If it can be proven that Kong committed the crimes he pleaded guilty to for profit or to benefit organized crime, the Sun reported, the charges could carry a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in Jail.
“The message Canadians are getting is that the border isn’t secure and the government isn’t maintaining the integrity of our border,” federal immigration critic Michelle Rempel told the Sun.
The National Post first reported in June about the smuggling network uncovered by a years-long federal investigation.
According to the Post, which obtained unsealed court documents, the scheme got Chinese nationals to fly to the United States on valid travel visas. They were then dropped off at Peace Arch Park and told to walk through the park to the Canadian side of the border while smiling and acting naturally. Someone would be waiting for them on the Canadian side to pick them up.
The Richmond News reported that the warrant alleged Kong helped 34 Chinese migrants enter Canada illegally over a 17-month stretch beginning in June 2014. Kong even met a group of immigrants at Parker Place Mall in Richmond.
According to the Post, court records showed Kong may have actually helped more than 900 foreign nationals between 2011 and 2016.
About one-third of those filed refugee claims in Canada, though a few were smuggled into the U.S., the Post reported. It is unknown where the others are.
While Kong was heavily involved in the operation when the scheme started, the Sun reported, he eventually delegated. Kong’s adult son, Matthew, was arrested and faces lesser charges for his alleged connection to the scheme.
The Richmond News said Kong is scheduled to face trial on the remaining charges later this summer. Kong previously was convicted in 2010 and 2013 on immigration charges, the News reported.