After 13 years on the run, Yang Xiuzhu, China’s most wanted corruption fugitive, finally returned to her home country yesterday aboard an American Airlines flight, state media broadcast footage of the 70-year-old woman wearing a heavy jacket climbing down from the plane and turning herself into Chinese authorities.
Yang is a former deputy director of the construction bureau of the city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province. Back in 2003, she fled China when government investigators began to investigate her for embezzling some $39 million while in office, according to a statement from China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).
After leaving China, Yang reportedly sought refuge in Hong Kong, Singapore, France, the Netherlands, Italy and the United States. She tried applying for asylum in both France and the Netherlands, but was rejected. In 2014, she fled to the US and tried seeking asylum there as well.
However, at some point she changed her tune, withdrew her asylum application and voluntarily turned herself in. Back in July, her attorney said that Yang’s health was beginning to deteriorate and she wanted to return to China for medical treatment.
“We are all Chinese. Our home is China. Please come back soon,” she was shown saying, urging fellow economic fugitives to also turn themselves in.
Yang is at the top of China’s list of its “100 most-wanted economic fugitives,” which was released last year in connection with Xi Jinping’s ongoing corruption crackdown. She becomes the 37th name on that list to have returned to China.
Recently, Meng Hongwei, China’s Vice Minister of Public Security, was elected as the president of Interpol, causing human rights organizations to worry that he would use the global police organization’s resources to hunt down Xi’s enemies and check more names off the fugitive list.
Many of the remaining fugitives are in United States and Canada, two countries that China doesn’t have an extradition treaty with. American and Canadian officials have been reluctant to deport these suspects, fearing China’s often harsh and capricious justice system.
Back in 2015, Yang gave an interview to Reuters in which she she said that the “100 most-wanted” list was a “political document targeting enemies of the current regime rather than a roster of true criminals.”
[Images via Xinhua]