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Comment: Canadian court doesn't buy into Lai's lies
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-09 09:35

On February 3 the Supreme Court of Canada rejected an application for refugee status filed by Lai Changxing because there was no evidence to support his claim of political persecution after he is repatriated to China.

Lai and his wife were behind a network responsible for smuggling US$10 billion worth of goods in collaboration with corrupt officials. Lai and his company were accused by Chinese judicial bodies of smuggling cigarettes, heating and cooking oil, textiles, chemicals and other raw materials into China via Hong Kong.

The result of his case has sparked discussions among legal experts.

Ruan Qilin, professor of criminal law in China University of Politics and Law: The Canadian verdict refusing Lai's application for refugee status only underlined that Lai's dream for being treated as a political refugee and not being extradited has been shattered. Although a hurdle to extraditing Lai has been removed, it is difficult to say whether he will be extradited to China.

The reason for the Canadian court making such a verdict is on one hand, it has proof to do so; on the other hand, Canada does not intend to become a haven for criminals.

Not only Canada, but the world has now joined hands to fight international crimes - including those in the field of economics. When Lai fled China, he also carried a great deal of illegal money.

Last year, the UN Convention against corruption was signed. It declares that economic criminals should be the target of joint international anti-corruption efforts, since many of these criminals are truly international in their operations. Legal barriers among countries have been gradually removed and international co-operation strengthened.

Also last year, the National People's Congress signed the UN Convention against transnational organized crime. It is the first international legal reference for anti-corruption, in which, the basic norms of anti-corruption have been set up. Rules of returning the transferred wealth have been made and it is also the first time an internationally co-operative mechanism of different levels has been established. These measures will help provide China with legal guarantees for hunting criminals fleeing abroad.

Zhou Guangquan, professor in Tsinghua University: China's signing the UN Convention against transnational organized crime and UN Convention against corruption indicates that within the UN framework, China can take effective measures to combat transnational criminals. At the same time, it shows China's drive for anti-corruption will become more internationally co-operative.

Never has global co-operation played such a big role in China's anti-crime work, as co-operation in the areas has often been soured by disparities in judicial systems.

Meanwhile, transnational legal aid is always related to international extradition. The bilateral extraditing treaty is another problem in international legal aids. Signing such a treaty needs a prerequisite, that is, the recognition should be common towards a criminal and the punishment for the criminal should also be similar.

As for China's current condition, it is hard to reach a common understanding on these issues, let alone signing the treaty of extradition. So most countries, which in the eyes of criminals fleeing China are havens beyond the law, have not signed such a treaty with China.

As for recovering illicit money, China maintains that the State-owned property should be recovered totally. But if it is recovered with help from the international community, the money should be divided in line with internationally recognized rules. It is another hurdle for extradition treaty.

He Fan, PhD candidate on international criminal law in Renmin University of China: As a notorious smuggling kingpin, Lai clearly knows he could not escape China's legal sanction, so he began to apply for Canadian refugee status in 1998.

Refugee means a person who is forced to permanently leave his native country for reasons of political persecution, war or natural disaster. If the refugee status is confirmed, he cannot be repatriated to the original country.

Lai and his lawyer applied for refugee status in Canada by whitewashing Lai's crimes and attacking China's legal system, claiming that Lai would suffer from political persecution if he comes back. And due to the marathon nature of legal appeals, they also hoped to prolong his stay in Canada indefinitely.

But things went against his dreams when his application was rejected.

The first reason is the Canadian authorities conducted an investigation into his criminal history, and concluded crimes like Lai's in smuggling and bribery are serious not only in China but also in Canada. It is nothing related to politics. Meanwhile, China also made efforts to provide details of Lai's crimes to the Canadians.

Due to the huge fee of about 10 million Canadian dollars to pay for Lai's case, Canadian media have expressed overwhelming dissatisfaction with him. Canada also does not want to jeopardize increasingly strengthened co-operation with China on fighting illegal drugs and money laundering.

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