Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has arrived in Canada for a trip in which he is due to meet its leader Justin Trudeau and expected to press for an extradition treaty between the two countries.
More than a quarter of China’s 100 most wanted criminals are believed to live in Canada and Beijing has been keen to expedite their handover. But Ottawa has been reluctant due to human rights concerns.
Trudeau sidestepped questions on the issue ahead of Li’s arrival on Wednesday, saying Canada would stick to high standards when deciding whether to return Chinese citizens.
Beijing and Ottawa agreed to start discussion on a extradition treaty on September 12, one day before the release of Kevin Garratt, a Canadian charged with spying in China and held for two years. Garratt was freed on bail and returned to Vancouver last week after Trudeau raised his case during his official visit to China earlier this month. The release was reportedly a bargaining chip to pressure Ottawa into concessions before negotiations.
Christine Duhaime, a Canadian lawyer and certified financial crime specialist, expected progress on the talks, despite concerns over differences in the two judicial systems, particularly over China’s use of the death penalty.
“This is being initiated by China from what I understand, and both countries appear motivated to have an extradition treaty in place, in particular to address the removal from Canada of what China calls the economic fugitives … who are in Vancouver,” Duhaime said.
Charging a person with money laundering would be the fastest way to extradite them, as most countries were required to accelerate such cases, she said.
Wuhan University law expert Luo Guoqiang said Canada distrusted the Chinese juridical system and refused to send fugitives back without assurances that human rights would be protected.
David Matas, who has represented one person on the 100 wanted list, said Ottawa should be concerned that extradition requests by China could be politically motivated.
“Such a treaty creates general problems because it means accepting Chinese [Communist] Party or state allegations at face value and the Chinese justice system as fair, when it is manifestly not so,” Matas said.
One of the fugitives who fled to Canada, Jiang Qian, was returned to China yesterday, Xinhua reported, adding that Jiang surrendered voluntarily.