An estimated 46 of China’s 100 most wanted fugitives are residing in the United States or Canada despite both countries pledging to cooperate over their repatriation.
According to Reuters, these fugitives aren’t difficult to locate. One man is a mushroom farmer in British Columbia and another is a businessman in Florida. Both men claim the charges lodged against them are false and seek refugee status.
Neither the U.S. nor Canada has an extradition treaty with China, partly because they are apprehensive or China’s judicial system and treatment of prisoners. Both countries have awarded at least one subject on the list citizenship.
A Chinese fugitive now residing in Florida named Wei Chen said, “The list has ruined my life, but I’m not hiding. I don’t know about the other 99 people, but I didn’t do what they said.” Chen was accused of misappropriating state funds, but claims he was just a scapegoat for the decline of a state-owned business. He has since been awarded citizenship in the U.S.
So far, Chinese fugitives are subject to deportation only if they break the law after entering North America. This could include include crimes such as falsifying passport information or lying about any financial assets they bought in.
One such case is that of Yang Xiuzhu, who is currently held in an immigration detention center awaiting deportation because she entered the U.S. on a fake passport. China has charged her with a much more grievous crime of stealing $39 million. In an interview, Yang said, “I suspect I am a pawn between U.S. and Chinese negotiators.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice made a public statement saying they would “vigorously pursue prosecutions” against Chinese fugitives “where there is alleged money laundering or other criminal activity in this country.” He added, however, that first they will require evidence of the crimes which China is yet to provide.
Chinese fugitives that enter countries which are friendlier with China are far more likely to get extradited. Liu Jianchao, China’s minister in charge of repatriating corruption suspects, said 17 of 100 Sky Net fugitives have been returned from Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Uganda.
By Mary DeMay