Canada’s FM: Chinese Fugitive’s Case Must Run Canadian Legal Course

Posted July 18th, 2011 at 7:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Canada's foreign minister says the case of a fugitive Chinese financier jailed in Canada must go through that country's independent legal process before he can be extradited to China.

John Baird told reporters in China Monday that he discussed the case of Lai Changxing with Chinese officials. He said that Canadian and Chinese people “don't have a lot of time for white collar fraudsters,” but warned that the legal process may take time.

Lai is wanted in China for allegedly orchestrating a multi-billion-dollar smuggling operation in southern China in the late 1990s. He has been fighting extradition to China for more than a decade. Canada has refused him refugee status so unless Lai succeeds with further legal challenges, he could be returned to China by the end of the month.

Lai fled to Canada in 1999 with his wife and children. He says the charges against him are politically motivated, and he faces the death penalty in China.

But Baird said Beijing has offered assurances that white-collar crime is no longer punishable by death in China. Canada does not have a death penalty.

The Canadian foreign minister arrived in China Sunday for a five-day visit. He met Monday with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi and Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang.

Baird said that during the visit he called for stronger economic ties with China, but that he also raised Canada's human rights concerns.

International human rights groups and many foreign dignitaries visiting China, have criticized Beijing's increasing crackdown on dissidents.

The official new agency Xinhua published an editorial Monday charging that the West is choosing to ignore the facts and figures listed in Beijing's assessment of the human rights situation in China.

China's State Council – the country's cabinet – issued the human rights assessment on Thursday. It concluded that China has fulfilled its goal of protecting the human rights of all social groups with particular attention to underprivileged women, ethnic minority groups, migrant workers, the homeless and the disabled.