Last week, China released Canadian missionary Kevin Garratt, who had been detained on suspicion of espionage since 2014. His return to Canada was seen as a win for new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who visited Beijing earlier this month. Trudeau spoke on Saturday of the “tremendous potential for a stronger, more stable relationship with China than there has been for Canada in the past.” China has voiced similar enthusiasm, with ambassador Luo Zhaohui remarking that “China-Canada relations have recently moved onto the fast track” towards a “glorious chapter.” The next step in the journey is this week’s official visit by Premier Li Keqiang.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Stephane Dion insisted on Friday that no concessions had been granted to China in exchange for Garrat’s release. On Tuesday, however, The Globe and Mail’s Robert Fife reported that the two sides had agreed to discuss an extradition treaty the day before he was freed. Canada, like other countries, has cooperated on a case-by-case basis with China’s efforts to repatriate corruption suspects, including Lai Changxing in 2011. But Beijing has long sought to bolster these processes with formal extradition agreements—particularly with Canada, adopted home to 26 of China’s 100 most wanted economic fugitives, second only to the United States.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser met a high-ranking Chinese official in Beijing last Monday to hold talks on the issue, which a former Canadian dipomat suggests was a quid pro quo between the two countries for Mr. Garratt’s release.
[…] Former diplomat Charles Burton said it appears China used Mr. Garratt as a bargaining chip to get what it wanted, including a role in helping Canada Border Service Agency agents identify illegal Chinese immigrants.
[…] “We don’t have an extradition treaty with China for fairly clear reasons. The rules of evidence are not the same there. There are reports of death sentences for white-collar crime and pervasive evidence of torture and interrogation,” Mr. Burton said.
Canada usually forbids the extradition of people to countries with the death penalty, although Chinese fugitives have been repatriated on condition they are not executed and that Canadian diplomats are permitted to visit them in prison.
[…] Canada has returned more than 1,400 Chinese nationals since 2009, mainly involving illegal immigration. [Source]
Sharing of seized assets is likely to be part of the deal. State media reported on Wednesday that China plans to redouble its efforts to recover such allegedly ill-gotten gains.
Fife and Nathan VanderKlippe reported a sign of China’s impatience on Wednesday: a years-long campaign of intimidation by Chinese agents entering Canada on tourist visas. From The Globe and Mail:
The secret Chinese visits have raised concern among lawyers and prompted investigations by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP, even as the Trudeau government begins negotiations for an extradition treaty with China.
According to an insider briefed on China’s secret-agent operation, the Chinese moved to tactics that include threats and intimidation because they were “ticked off” at Canada for “not being willing to send people back the instant they asked” and for dragging its feet on an extradition treaty.
[…] U.S. diplomats warned China in 2015 to stop using its security agents on American soil to pressure Chinese citizens to return home to face its court system.
While Mr. Trudeau was in China for an official visit earlier this month, The Globe asked him about the tactics Chinese agents are alleged to have used. In response, Mr. Trudeau said such issues are “exactly why” the two sides established a high-level dialogue on security and rule of law with China, “which will allow Canadian officials and Chinese officials to discuss specific cases, to discuss the principles and concerns that both sides have.” [Source]
China has become increasingly aggressive in reaching beyond its own borders, with recent apparent abductions from Hong Kong, Myanmar, and Thailand.
Even with a treaty in place, Canadian courts must still be persuaded that there is sufficient evidence to justify extradition, the Minister of Justice must personally approve the decision, and the person in question has the right to appeal. “In all cases,” according to Canada’s Ministry of Justice, “the conduct for which extradition is sought must be considered criminal in both the requesting country and in Canada.” This requirement would sit somewhat at odds with the normal course of corruption investigations of Chinese officials, in which suspects are first investigated for breaches of Party rules, not criminal law, and only subsequently turned over to judicial organs for prosecution.
China’s first extradition treaty with a developed Western country—Spain, in 2006—set a precedent of accommodating objections to capital punishment. (E.U. member states may neither execute prisoners nor extradite them if they may be executed, a restriction which also obstructed an agreement with the United States.) Other reservations remain, however. Human Rights Watch’s Phelim Kine, commenting in 2011 on Lai Changxing’s extradition, told Reuters that “the fact that Canadian government officials appear willing to accept on face value the Chinese government’s assurances that it will respect due legal process suggests a near-willful ignorance of the sharp deterioration in China’s human rights environment.” On Tuesday, The New York Times’ Dan Levin reported on reactions to news of the planned negotiations:
The United States, Britain and New Zealand have refused to negotiate such treaties, and Australia has not ratified one that it signed with China in 2007, largely over concerns including the systemic use of torture to extract confessions, show trials and the imposition of the death penalty for noncapital crimes.
[…] “The extraordinary weaknesses in China’s due process and fair trial rights are well documented,” said Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch. “China wants this treaty to create a veneer of legality for fundamentally abusive tactics. Beijing will then also be able to say to other governments, ‘Canada signed one, why won’t you.’”
[…] In an emailed statement, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said the promotion and protection of human rights were a priority in Canada’s relationship with China, and that the recent discussions included extradition and transfers of offenders, “where we have stressed that Canada is governed by very high standards,” it said.
Yet critics of the agreement say it is another sign of Mr. Trudeau’s capitulation to China that ultimately does little to protect Canadian interests or values, while strengthening Beijing’s hand. [Source]
An editorial in The Globe and Mail on Wednesday argued against the treaty:
Today, China’s legal system has taken on some characteristics of Western law, but its legal culture is another story. Judicial independence is not a fact. And defence lawyers themselves are apt to be in more danger of punishment from the Chinese state than their clients. Due process? Fair trial? These are hardly guaranteed in China.
Mr. Trudeau is undoubtedly sincere when he says that Canada would insist that no one extradited to China would suffer the death penalty, and Canada can insist on such a condition. But that leaves the door open to a long list of other abuses. For the authoritarian Beijing regime, the benefit of an extradition treaty with Canada would be vastly out of proportion to any quid pro quo that Canada could receive in return. Our courts and government could find themselves regularly asked to ship offenders across the Pacific to the care of a legal system that does not meet our standards. [Source]
Despite the absence of a treaty, New Zealand announced on Wednesday that it has approved its first extradition to China, that of a South Korean man accused of a murder in Shanghai. This is the government’s second decision on the case: the High Court ordered a review of the first citing concerns over ill-treatment and due process. Further court challenges are likely to follow.
Also this week, Chinese state media announced the first extradition of a corruption suspect from France under a treaty that came into effect last year. The agreement was signed in 2007, but not ratified by the French parliament until April 2015, due largely to concerns over the death penalty. From the state-run China Radio International:
With the cooperation of French police and the Chinese embassy in Paris, the “Fox Hunt” campaign team has escorted the suspect surnamed Chen from France. Chen is wanted for economic crimes by police in east China’s Zhejiang Province.
[…] He fled to France in March 2013, and in September 2014, the municipal people’s procuratorate of Rui’an approved his arrest on charges of illegal acquisition of public deposits. In November 2014, Interpol issued a red notice on Chen.
[…] Chinese police have found 409 fugitives hiding overseas as part of the “Fox Hunt 2016” campaign, including 15 listed in an Interpol red notice.
The campaign has seen the arrest of 272 fugitives and 137 others have been persuaded to return from 61 countries and regions. [Source]
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang commented:
[…] With the cooperation of the French side, the “Fox Hunt” campaign team under the Ministry of Public Security has escorted the suspect Chen Wenhua from France, who is wanted by police in China’s Zhejiang Province.
This is the first fugitive repatriated from France since the China-France extradition treaty took effect in 2015, marking a major breakthrough for hunting suspects who have fled to France. This is also another example of China’s successful extradition of fugitives from European countries after Italy and Spain.
I would like to emphasize that the Chinese government attaches great importance to international cooperation on tracking down fugitives and pursuing illicit gains. We have had effective and reciprocal cooperation on individual cases with relevant countries based on treaties or through diplomatic channels in recent years. Looking forward, we will intensify our efforts to hunt fugitives and pursue ill-gotten assets overseas, and keep building and improving the legal network to put all the fugitives and their illicit assets under the sky net of anti-corruption. [Source]
Meanwhile, Taipei has protested the deportation of 13 Taiwanese fraud suspects from Cambodia to mainland China, following earlier cases from Cambodia, Malaysia, and Kenya.