China / Society

Game could be up for most-wanted fugitive official

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-06-11 20:21

BEIJING - Yang Xiuzhu, China's most wanted fugitive, is in US custody waiting to hear if she will be deported for visa violations.

Yang, 68, former vice mayor of Wenzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province, fled China in 2003 after she caught the attention of graft busters over allegations of embezzlement.

She is accused of entering the US in 2014 on a fake Dutch passport.

China has no extradition treaties with the United States, Canada and Australia, the top destinations for China's fugitives. As such, these nations are favored by Chinese suspects as they can use complex regulations on extradition and jurisdiction to their advantage.

Due to this, and a lack of cross-border coordination, China's attempts to secure the extradition of many fugitives have been thwarted, allowing officials to hide in plain sight.

However, Yang might have lost this particular game of hide and seek.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) accused Yang of "violating the terms of the Visa Waiver Program," and requested that the immigration court deport her.

"As a foreign law enforcement fugitive, Yang is an ICE priority," Lou Martinez, ICE New York field office spokesperson, said in a statement.

Despite cross-border coordination difficulties, the deportation from the US of the woman who tops China's 100 most wanted list speaks volumes of the success of international collaboration on eradicating corruption.

China's Fox Hunt 2014 operation, which began in July that year, targets fugitive suspects in economic crimes. Its goal is to "block the last route of retreat" for corrupt officials after crackdowns on home soil have limited the space for abuse of power.

In 2014, 680 fugitives suspected of economic crimes were repatriated. Of those, 117 had been at large for over a decade. One had been on the run for 22 years.

The latest phase of the campaign, codenamed Sky Net, was kick-started in March with the publication of Interpol alerts that included 100 economic fugitives.

Chinese police worked with counterparts in over 90 countries and regions, and more than 70 teams were sent overseas.

At present, cross-border anti-corruption cooperation has its fair share of obstacles: Most notably, variations in political, social and legal systems.

More international cooperation is needed. Corruption is a crime the world over. All countries should facilitate the process.

Should Yang be deported, not only would it be a big boost for China's anti-corruption drive, but it would send a clear message to other fugitives: you can run, but you can't hide.

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