On Monday, October 10, police descended on Shekou for a routine passport and registration check – an operation that resulted in five expats receiving fines of RMB500.
News of the raid was released in the hours before it took place, announced on WeChat by Aaron Cannon, a Shenzhen expat of 14 years and well-known business owner in Shekou.
On October 11, a report emerged on WeChat, via GlobalNews, an account run by Guangzhou expat Kyle Hadfield, that claimed Cannon is a police collaborator:
“He is being used by the police to give these crackdowns an air of legitimacy. Aaron, posting on your WeChat at 6.40pm about a crackdown that will start in an hour or two is not enough warning!”
That’s recently spoke with Mr. Cannon, who informed us that he is in no way, shape or form a police collaborator and that the GlobalNews story unfairly defamed him.
“I’ve been the go-to foreign guy in Shekou due to my relationships here and the four companies that I own in Shekou,” said Cannon. “I help liaison between the police and the foreigners here, to help people get registered and make sure they follow the laws – making their transfer to expat life in Shekou easier.
“I don’t work for the police, I am not paid by the police, I have never given the police any information. That’s not what I do.”
Cannon also pointed out that it's not his obligation to inform people of document checks and that being libeled because he “didn’t give enough notice” is absurd.
Shenzhen expat Nathan Davis, a long-time friend of Cannon's, told us that Aaron is a reputable figure in the community and is not a police informant.
“He has intelligently built a relationship with local police, the same thing I did in my hometown. It's good to have a healthy relationship with law enforcement, especially when you are a bar owner,” said Davis. “He does inform his friends, patrons and other owners in the community about police registration checks. He has also assisted members of the expat community in visas and registering apartments.”
In addition to the unproven statements about Cannon, the GlobalNews story also appears to be comparing China’s expat registration policy with Nazi Germany – including photos of Nazi document checks alongside images of raids in Shenzhen.
Cannon said that he has been contacted by Hadfield on numerous occasions to provide information or clarification for stories he is working on for GlobalNews, something he said he will not be doing again in the future.
“He [Hadfield] was asking questions I didn’t have the answers to, asking me to give up my source and I told him I could not do that, so he went and decided to write this lying story about me cooperating with the police,” said Cannon. “He just didn’t have a story so he changed the story to something he thought people would want to read.”
GlobalNews appears to have begun backing away from their ungrounded claims about Cannon, recently publishing a comment on their own article stating: “Just wanna [sic] say that aaron [sic] was probably warning us out of the goodness of his heart and not actually coordinating with the police.”
When asked by That’s to provide proof that Cannon was colluding with the police, Hadfield provided none, instead telling us it’s “obvious, I’ve spoken to him multiple times.”
Cannon is currently consulting lawyers to analyze what legal options he has available to hold GlobalNews accountable.
UPDATE (October 15, 2016 at 11.45 PM CST): An earlier version of this article mistakenly labeled GlobalNews’ Kyle Hadfield as Chris Hadfield.