The problem of Chinese fugitives accused of major financial crimes has been a thorny one for Canada: after making their way to Canada, often fraudulently with false identities, Chinese fugitives request refugee status, a determination that takes several ye rs, and even when their cases are found not to be meritorious, they manage to stall deportation China for long periods of time on the grounds that China implements the death penalty against financial criminals. This has brought to Canada dozens of the most unsavoury characters from China....but change seems to be in the air.
Chinese fugitive's deportation hailed as landmark move
Co-operation on case of man accused in fraud scheme seen as sign of improving Sino-Canadian relations
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
September 4, 2008 at 5:14 AM EDT
BEIJING — After years of deadlock, Canada and China have taken a small step toward resolving one of their thorniest disputes: the fate of Chinese fugitives who take shelter in Canada.
Deng Xinzhi, whom the Chinese accuse of being a swindler, has been quietly deported from Toronto back to China to face criminal charges for his alleged role in a $3-million fraud scheme. Beijing has hailed it as a landmark move, potentially clearing the way for more than 500 criminal fugitives to be sent back to China from Canada and other countries. It is also seen as a sign of improved Canada-China relations.
Some of the Chinese fugitives have sought refugee status in Canada, triggering lengthy legal battles that frustrated China and provoked a storm of criticism in the Chinese media, where Canada is often described as a haven for Chinese criminals and corrupt officials.
Canada's reputation for giving shelter to alleged Chinese criminals has been one of the biggest stains on Canada's public image in China in recent years. Many Chinese opinion leaders have accused Ottawa of thwarting justice by allowing criminals to stay in Canada for many years without deporting them.
The federal Conservative government denies the charge. "Mr. Deng's removal from Canada further underscores this government's commitment that our country will not be a safe haven for fugitives," Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said in a statement. "On this, our tolerance level is zero."
Mr. Deng fled to Canada in 2003 and lived in the Toronto area. Chinese authorities say that he and a gang of other suspects had swindled the equivalent of about $3-million from Chinese citizens in 2002 by fraudulently posing as employees of China Life, a major insurance company.
Canadian border security officers escorted Mr. Deng back to China on Aug. 22, during the height of the Beijing Olympics, when few people noticed the move.
But other fugitives - including Lai Changxing, the accused kingpin of a $10-billion smuggling ring who is often described as China's most wanted man - are still living in Canada in defiance of Chinese demands. Mr. Lai fled to Canada in 1999 and has been fighting a marathon legal battle for the right to stay. A federal judge has ruled that Mr. Lai could be at risk of torture if he is deported to China, where such methods are often used.
In another high-profile case, China wants to prosecute three Chinese fugitives who fled to Canada in 2004 after allegedly embezzling more than $100-million from a bank in northeastern China. The three men were arrested in Vancouver last year, but they are still embroiled in a legal battle against their deportation.
"There has been a perception among Chinese people that Canada has been too dismissive of Chinese concerns over Chinese criminals who resettle in Canada with their illegally gotten gains," said Charles Burton, a political scientist at Brock University who specializes in Canada-China relations. "[The deportation] will go a long way to improving Canada's image in China."
Some Chinese media have suggested that the deportation of Mr. Deng last month could "accelerate" the deportation of Mr. Lai and other alleged Chinese criminals. "I'm convinced it's the trend for the future," one legal expert told the China Daily this week.
Canada's decision to deport Mr. Deng was praised by China's Public Security Ministry, which said it "appreciated" the move and hoped for further "co-operation" with Canada in the future.
But other Chinese media commentators say the Deng case is unlikely to become a precedent. They note that Mr. Deng had much less money than Mr. Lai and was unable to mount as extensive a legal battle. And there is still no extradition treaty between Canada and China. To think that the Deng case will pave the way for Mr. Lai's deportation is "wishful thinking," said one Chinese blogger who specializes in Canada-China issues.
In some deportation cases, Canada has obtained a promise from Beijing that it will not execute a suspect who is deported from Canada to China. It is unclear whether any such promise was obtained in the case of Mr. Deng.
On forums on the Internet, many Chinese people commented that Canada is still a "haven for criminals," despite the Deng deportation. Only if Mr. Lai is deported to China will Canada lose that reputation, they said.
"To deport a small fish and keep the big fish - isn't that just a show?" asked one person on a popular website, sina.com.