The United States "has become the top destination for Chinese
fugitives fleeing the law," the China Daily newspaper said, citing
Liao Jinrong, director general of the ministry's International
Chinese President Xi Jinping has made fighting pervasive graft a
central theme and has warned, like others before him, that
corruption threatens the Communist Party's survival.
Beijing has long grappled with the issue of so-called "naked
officials" - government workers whose husbands, wives or children
are all overseas - who use foreign family connections to illegally
shift assets out of China or to avoid investigation. Some estimates
put the number of Chinese officials and family members moving assets
offshore at more than 1 million in the past five years.
But bringing these fugitives back to China isn't easy. There is no
extradition treaty between China and the United States, and foreign
governments have expressed reluctance to hand over Chinese suspects
as they could face the death penalty in China.
"We face practical difficulties in getting fugitives who fled to the
United States back to face trial due to the lack of an extradition
treaty and the complex and lengthy procedures," the China Daily
cited Liao as saying.
China's Public Security Ministry is trying to set up an annual
high-level meeting with U.S. judicial authorities, including the
Department of Homeland Security, the China Daily said, citing Wang
Gang, a senior official at the International Cooperation Bureau.
Last month, China launched what it called a "fox hunt" for corrupt
officials, saying it will track down fugitives around the world and
"This is a new message that the current administration is sending to
the public," said Zhu Jiangnan, an assistant politics professor at
the University of Hong Kong, who specializes in corruption in China.
"In past years, the government didn't say very explicitly they will
get corrupt officials back to China."
[to top of second column]
A case highlighting the problems of extradition is Lai Changxing,
once China's most-wanted fugitive, who fled to Canada with his
family in 1999 and claimed refugee status saying allegations that he
ran a multibillion-dollar smuggling operation in the southeastern
Chinese city of Xiamen were politically motivated. His case
triggered tensions between Beijing and Ottawa. Canada eventually
deported Lai in 2011, and he was jailed for life the following year.
Only two people have been brought home from the United States to
China to stand trial in the past decade, the China Daily said,
citing ministry figures. It's difficult for China to apprehend
fugitives because U.S. judicial authorities "misunderstand the
Chinese judicial system and procedures,, the newspaper said, citing
experts. "They always think Chinese judicial organs violate
suspects' human rights," it quoted Wang as saying.
Globally, 320 suspects in corruption cases were "seized and brought
back to China" in the first half of this year, state news agency
Xinhua said in July.
In March, China's top prosecutor, Cao Jianming, said more than 10
billion yuan ($1.65 billion) in "dirty money" and property was
recovered and 762 corruption suspects were captured at home or
abroad last year.
Since the mid-1990s, an estimated 16,000-18,000 party officials,
businessmen and other individuals have "disappeared" from China,
according to a People's Bank of China report prepared in 2008 -
taking with them an estimated 800 billion yuan.
(1 US dollar = 6.1528 Chinese yuan)
(Additional reporting by Matthew Miller; Editing by Michael Perry
and Ian Geoghegan)
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