China’s hunting for cor­rupt fugi­tives is jus­ti­fi­able

China Daily (Canada) - - VIEWS -

Yang Xi­uzhu, China’s most-wanted fugi­tive who fled over­seas 13 years ago, re­turned to Bei­jing and turned her­self in on Nov 16, mark­ing an­other vic­tory in the coun­try’s cam­paign against cor­rup­tion. The for­mer deputy direc­tor of the con­struc­tion de­part­ment of East China’s Zhe­jiang province has been ac­cused of em­bez­zling 250 mil­lion yuan ($36.3 mil­lion), mak­ing her the most-wanted on China’s “red no­tice” list of 100 cor­rupt of­fi­cials re­leased by In­ter­pol last year.

She is the 37th fugi­tive who have re­cently re­turned to the coun­try— although most of them were per­suaded to do so. To hold them crim­i­nally ac­count­able, China has the right to use repa­tri­a­tion and ex­tra­di­tion rules in ac­cor­dance with theUnited Na­tions Con­ven­tion Against Cor­rup­tion and bi­lat­eral ex­tra­di­tion treaties.

What prompted Yang to end her days on the run was not that the Chi­nese govern­ment had been “pres­sur­ing her fam­ily”. Af­ter be­ing charged by theUS ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties and de­tained in the coun­try thanks to close law en­force­ment co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and theUS, she had no op­tion but to re­turn to con­fess to her crime.

Bei­jing’s hunt for cor­rupt fugi­tives who have fled the coun­try to avoid pun­ish­ments is jus­ti­fi­able and in line with its ef­forts to safe­guard na­tional in­ter­ests and pro­mote fair mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion. That someWestern me­dia out­lets try to make far-fetched con­nec­tions be­tween China’s anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign and its hu­man rights record, which in fact is de­cent, is noth­ing more than a tar­geted smear cam­paign.

China needs the ju­di­cial as­sis­tance and co­op­er­a­tion of other coun­tries, es­pe­cially the pop­u­lar desti­na­tions for Chi­nese out­laws such as theUS, to cleanse its do­mes­tic in­vest­ment en­vi­ron­ment. But some coun­tries have tried to use Chi­nese cor­rupt “asy­lum­seek­ers” as a bar­gain­ing chip in other bi­lat­eral is­sues with China. They have stalled the Chi­nese govern­ment’s repa­tri­a­tion de­mand in the name of le­gal rea­sons, which in turn “in­spired” more Chi­nese cor­rupt of­fi­cials to seek havens abroad.

De­spite that, China stands firm on its anti-cor­rup­tion prom­ises no mat­ter where the wrong­do­ers flee. Its ju­di­cial or­gans have stipulated a set of laws and are ne­go­ti­at­ing ex­tra­di­tion treaties with more coun­tries to bring fugi­tives at large to jus­tice. China has also re­vised its laws to pro­tect the hu­man rights of those on the run, and no one has faced the death sen­tence till now af­ter ex­tra­di­tion or repa­tri­a­tion. The open tri­als of cases in­volv­ing for­eign de­fen­dants are eas­ily avail­able to con­suls of the coun­tries con­cerned.

Per­suad­ing wanted fugi­tives to sur­ren­der in­volves mak­ing con­tacts with their friends and rel­a­tives who can help them make the right de­ci­sion. Such a uni­ver­sal ap­proach in com­bat­ing crimes is about al­le­vi­at­ing the sus­pects’ cul­pa­bil­ity as well as de­fend­ing their le­git­i­mate rights. China has never sought to nor will it over­step the le­gal bound­aries.

It is also note­wor­thy that some cor­rupt of­fi­cials took away with them con­sid­er­able na­tional as­sets while flee­ing the coun­try. Apart from bring­ing them back to face trial, Chi­nese ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties have also made ex­tra ef­forts to retrieve the mis­ap­pro­pri­ated as­sets. But there is still a long way to go, as sev­er­alWestern coun­tries

have only paid lip ser­vice to China’s fight against cor­rup­tion with­out re­turn­ing the ill-got­ten wealth.

Hag­gling over how to deal with these il­le­gal as­sets with Bei­jing in the name of de­fend­ing the pri­macy of their do­mes­tic laws is no dif­fer­ent from har­bor­ing cor­rupt fugi­tives. China has to plug up the loop­holes that some fugi­tives “vol­un­teer” to come back at the cost of their own free­dom, in a bid to en­sure their chil­dren (and other rel­a­tives) over­seas could still feast on their em­bez­zled money.

The UN Con­ven­tion Against Cor­rup­tion makes clear the obli­ga­tions of rel­e­vant coun­tries in this re­gard. On their part, China’s procu­ra­to­rial or­gans and courts should make the con­fis­ca­tion of the il­le­gal as­sets looted abroad by wanted fugi­tives a part of the Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dural Law.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor of law at Zhong­nan Univer­sity of Eco­nom­ics and Law.

LIU XINYI / FOR CHINA DAILY

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