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Chinese consulate in Vancouver, B.C., posted its response to the news reports on its website on Sunday.David Ryder/Reuters

The Chinese consulate in Vancouver has harshly criticized media outlets that published stories about the recruitment and training of volunteers in Canada to ensure the “safety” of fellow Chinese citizens, saying the reporting was malicious and slanderous.

Last week, some Canadian news organizations, including The Globe and Mail, reported that the Chinese consulate in Vancouver was training volunteers to “protect the lives and property of the people and safeguarding the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens overseas,” according to a recent article posted to the consulate’s website.

The Dec. 11 article prompted concern among pro-Hong Kong activists and China experts who questioned the work Beijing wants the volunteers to do.

The consulate posted its response to the news reports on its website on Sunday.

The consulate said that “a few irresponsible media outlets” unfairly characterized the volunteer recruitment program. It added that any suggestion that the effort was meant to spread Chinese ideology and to interfere with local affairs was “pure fabrication and malicious slander.”

Gloria Fung, president of Canada-Hong Kong Link, said the statement from the consulate is “defensive” and doesn’t address her concerns about the program, including whether these volunteers were asked to perform “other tasks” on Canadian soil.

They might be asked “to closely monitor Chinese community members in Canada,” she said.

The consulate states on its website that with the increasing number of Chinese nationals who are touring, studying and working in Canada, the number of consular cases, including accidents and sudden illness, has been increasing significantly.

It notes that helping one another is the “Chinese nation’s fine tradition.”

“It’s legal and reasonable to recruit local ex-pats to be volunteers who assist the consulate, in accordance with laws and regulations, to offer timely and effective help for Chinese citizens overseas,” the consulate says.

It adds that it hopes the media can be “objective and fair” and do more things that help promote friendship, mutual trust and understanding between people from China and Canada.

Mabel Tung, chair of the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement, said she doesn’t think the Canadian media had been overreacting to the issue.

“The problem here is they are recruiting Canadians to take care of their own citizens. I think there is something wrong with it,” Ms. Tung said.

A number of China experts said it is not uncommon for countries to ask their ex-pats for help, but some questioned what specific consular functions these volunteers are providing.

The program has been undertaken by consulates in Calgary and Toronto, as well as in missions around the world. The Chinese consulate in Osaka says in a recent post that it hopes volunteers in the Japanese city can play a role as the consulate’s “eyes, ears, mouths and hands.”