On a Sunday morning in February, the serenity of Point Grey was disrupted. In the heart of Vancouver’s priciest oceanfront neighbourhood, rifle-bearing police surrounded the $7-million mansion of Wu Shumin, a politically connected 50-year-old businesswoman from China’s Fujian province.
They were responding to a call from a neighbour who spotted a white BMW X5 SUV with a shattered window parked in the street beside Wu’s home. When the neighbour peered inside, he saw Wu and another woman lying still, covered in blood.
To date, Vancouver police have only confirmed that Wu and the other victim, Sun Yingying, a 39-year-old former Chinese soccer pro, had been the victims of a targeted shooting at 10:30 p.m. the previous night.
Yet a Global News investigation has pieced together many of the details about the circles in which Wu and Sun travelled. Global News has also learned that the case has caught the interest of Canadian federal investigators.
The Feb. 19 killings shocked Vancouver’s Chinese-Canadian community and spurred an extraordinary flood of police tips in the following week, sources say. And two months later, the hunger for facts about Sun and Wu — who owned a luxury gym in south Vancouver — remains undiminished as the community tries to understand who the women were, and what could possibly have motivated their executions.
Police are not commenting on the victims’ backgrounds, but interviews with community sources in Vancouver and Toronto show that speculative theories are circulating on social networks. Chinese-language media is rife with similar commentary.
Reports in Dawa News, a media outlet in Vancouver run by a former China Daily editor, pointed to a lending dispute involving Wu’s family in Fujian, where Wu’s former husband runs a successful pastry shop franchise. Mingpao suggests that Wu and Sun were in the luxury-home building business in Richmond, B.C., and that Wu had run a nightclub in Fujian, and was also planning to get into the legal marijuana growing business in Vancouver. Global News could not independently confirm these claims.
What is proven is that Wu and Sun ran a “high-end VIP clubhouse” in a strip mall minutes from the Vancouver airport. The Chen Fit Palace — an 8,000 square-foot facility located under a budget motel — offered “VIP” memberships for $4,888 per year. After patrons passed through the gym’s nightclub-style entrance, complete with metal security gates and high-angle video cameras, they were treated to luxurious marble-surfaced interiors, massage and traditional Chinese tea service, and spinning classes featuring pumping soundtracks and disco-ball lighting.
While there are no allegations against the Fit Palace, Global News has learned police are scrutinizing the VIP club as investigators strive to understand the business and social circles populated by the victims. Repeated phone calls seeking comment from the Fit Palace have not been answered.
B.C. Attorney General David Eby, who represents the Point Grey riding, told Global News he is aware “of allegations of organized crime involvement” in the double-homicide, but he could not comment on police investigations.
“The brutal shootings of two women in my otherwise peaceful and quiet home community came as a shock to many of my neighbours and friends, and certainly to me,” Eby stated.
A Global News investigation reveals that Wu and Sun operated in a world of moneyed, pro-Beijing expatriates in Richmond, B.C., and Markham, Ont.
Interviews with police sources and searches of B.C. court, real-estate and business records indicate that the victims socialized with and did business in the same clubhouse entertainment sector as some suspects involved in investigations by RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
This set of information also shows that Wu was a leader of the Quanzhou Friendship Society and that Sun associated with the group.
The Society, based in Richmond, says that it has hundreds of members in Vancouver who are completing tasks for the Chinese Communist Party, according to Chinese government reports. One of the reports, published in October 2020, says Quanzhou’s “Overseas Chinese” members completed many “achievements during the pandemic” in Canada and “the social influence of the association is increasing day by day.”
Meanwhile, some members may be taking directions from the Party’s foreign espionage organs, the Chinese Overseas Affairs Office and United Front Work Department, Canadian government reports and experts say.
“The managing of their behaviour is accomplished through incentive or disincentive, as well as intelligence-gathering, surveillance, and subversion against Overseas Chinese communities,” a 2020 national security screening report from Canada Border Services Agency says.
Representatives from the Quanzhou society didn’t respond to repeated phone calls and emailed questions from Global News, seeking comments about Wu’s murder, and information from police sources that linked Wu and the society to Chinese state networks.
Sun attended university in Beijing and played for Dalian Shide women’s soccer team in the early 2000s, according to CCTV, a Chinese-state media outlet.
Although Sun’s soccer career in China petered out, she didn’t drop her ambitions of leveraging her talents on the pitch to make a living.
When Sun arrived in Vancouver in 2009 and registered her soccer academy, she changed her given name from Sun Ying, to Sun Yingying. According to business records for her soccer business, she also went by a third name of Sun Shine, an echo of her business’s name, Sunshine International. B.C. registry documents show that in 2017, Wu became president of Sunshine International and listed her Point Grey mansion as the director’s address for the company.
At this point, Sun’s soccer academy was rebranded as Chen Fit Palace.
Vancouver city licensing records show that Wu and Sun applied for a “live events” licence for Fit Palace in 2017, but the licence wasn’t granted, and the application was withdrawn in 2020.
A search of B.C. court files reveals no criminal cases involving Sun.
But civil records show that in 2018, a woman named Sun Yingying was accused of driving drunk from a downtown Vancouver karaoke bar and smashing her 2010 Lexus RX 350 into a North Vancouver real estate development site. And Sun’s social media profile shows that off the soccer pitch, she practised target shooting with a handgun.
Police aren’t revealing any working theories on the Sun and Wu case, but say they are interested in the “high level” pro-Beijing circles that Wu moved in.
“There is obviously something much higher-level going on, with this one,” one source said.
Global News has learned that federal police and intelligence investigators are also interested in a broader picture surrounding the case, partly because Sun and Wu came from similar social, political and business networks as Bo Fan, a 41-year-old Chinese citizen who was murdered in June 2020 while she was working for a Vancouver-area “wealth clubhouse.” The establishment, Golden Touch, was involved in China-based multi-level marketing schemes and suspected money laundering in Canada, according to police sources.
In the Wu and Sun case, Global News police sources say they are interested in online reports that show that the 2017 gala opening for Fit Palace was attended by prominent community business figures from Toronto and Vancouver, many of whom are recognized as leaders of “Overseas Chinese” associations that maintain ties with Beijing and municipal governments across China.
As an indication of the wealth on display on that November day, one event photo shows Wu gifting a $9,000 Tiffany diamond necklace to a lucky draw winner.
Overseas Chinese Affairs meetings
A review by Global News of the Quanzhou Society’s webpage shows that in 2014, its leadership met with high-profile Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, including Qiu Yuanping, Beijing’s worldwide director of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO), a CCP organ involved in widespread espionage and surveillance of Chinese-Canadians, according to a March 2020 report from the national security screening section of the Canada Border Services Agency.
In the following years, Wu and the group repeatedly met in Vancouver and Fujian province with officials from the OCAO and the United Front Work Department, an even higher level CCP organ that took over the OCAO in 2018.
According to the Fujian province United Front Work Department webpage, the Quanzhou Friendship Society has hundreds of members in Vancouver working for the Chinese Communist Party. As an example of how it operates, in October 2020, the society attended a symposium in Fujian where members discussed influencing Taiwan through strategic business investments. While Taiwan considers itself an autonomous government, Beijing considers it a renegade province. Western intelligence experts say the CCP’s highest-priority United Front work involves subsuming Taiwan.
Akshay Singh, an international affairs and security scholar with the Council on International Policy, said Canada faces an increasing threat from the United Front Work Department’s efforts to control Chinese-Canadian community leaders. He would not speculate on police investigations surrounding the murders of Wu and Sun, but generally, he said, “International reports have highlighted that United Front Work Department activities are often covert or deceptive, and some researchers have also claimed the United Front Work Department networks are interlinked with organized crime elements.”
National security expert explains China’s use of the Overseas Affairs Office and United Front for espionage in Canada
In another indication of the prominence of Wu and the Quanzhou Friendship Society, the group’s website details a 2014 meeting between its leaders and Canada’s ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques.
In an interview, Saint-Jacques said he recalls most of the Quanzhou Friendship Society members appeared to be small business owners, and they discussed increasing trade ties with Canada. He said he didn’t perceive any nefarious elements in groups like the Quanzhou Friendship Society at the time, but in recent years, it has become clear to some Canadian officials that Chinese President Xi Jinping has been drastically increasing the CCP’s control of Chinese diaspora groups through the United Front Work Department and OCAO.
“CSIS is having a lot of problems with this,” Saint-Jacques said. “A lot of Chinese-Canadians don’t know where they can turn.”
Meanwhile, community sources in Vancouver and Toronto say they remain hopeful police can solve the Point Grey double-homicide.
For now, the community is left to speculate on whether dangerous business activities caused a deadly conflict.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.