Is the West Hampering China’s Anti-corruption Efforts?

Two years into China’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign, a senior Chinese diplomat has claimed that the absence of extradition treaties with some Western countries, especially the U.S., is hampering progress. The Wall Street Journal’s James T. Areddy reports on China’s efforts to extend the crackdown’s reach through international legal channels:

Xu Hong, head of the foreign ministry department on treaties and laws, said Wednesday that all major countries have an interest in stopping the flight of corrupt officials and recovering ill-gotten assets.

But in China’s case, he said, the pursuit is being slowed by “prejudice and bias against us” by lawmakers and judges in some Western countries, where he said Chinese fugitives tend to go and then stall their repatriation due to a lack of extradition treaties or other limited bilateral cooperation.

The problems with Western governments and officials demonstrate “their lack of understanding of China’s laws,” Mr. Xu said at a media briefing.

In an extension of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature anticorruption push over the past two years, the government has stepped up efforts to repatriate fugitives. A campaign launched in July by the Ministry of Public Security called Fox Hunt 2014 aims to “block the last route of retreat.” The programs involve negotiating cooperation with foreign governments to investigate and return fugitives. [Source]

If an extradition agreement cannot be reached, Xu suggested, China could pursue suspects through American courts.

Some of the “prejudice and bias” against China arises from human rights concerns. Only two fugitives have been extradited to China from the U.S. in the last ten years: former Bank of China official Yu Zhendong, accused of embezzling $485 million, was given up only after China promised not to torture or execute him. Torture, occasionally fatal, is often reported in Chinese corruption investigations, while corruption cases are a key stronghold of the country’s otherwise receding death penalty.

Meanwhile, even those not directly accused of must tread carefully. John Jia, a -based nephew of accused former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, returned to China for a wedding in January. According to Alistair Macdonald and David George-Cosh at The Wall Street Journal, he has since been barred from leaving the country:

Mr. Jia told friends in a Facebook message in January that he has been unable to leave China after being placed on a “no fly/exit list” due to an investigation into his uncle, a “very powerful and high ranking politician.”

[…] Friends say that Mr. Jia is a Canadian citizen, though that could not be confirmed independently. He is the son of Margaret Jia, who recently left her job as head of the Canadian subsidiary of CNPC amid a shakeup. Ms. Jia is a sister-in-law of Mr. Zhou, according to people familiar with the matter.

[…] Reached in China in August, Mr. Jia didn’t respond to questions. Since being contacted Mr. Jia has canceled various social media accounts. Neither Mr. Jia nor Ms. Jia have been accused of wrongdoing.

In his Facebook message Mr. Jia told his friends not to tell others of his predicament because it could “jeopardize” his chances of getting home. [Source]

Read more about China’s anti-corruption campaign via CDT.