US, China to parley on extradition of criminals

Updated: 2014-08-28 11:29

By Chen Weihua in Washington(China Daily USA)

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An anti-corruption and transparency mechanism being worked on by 21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies, might lead to the ultimate extradition of more corrupt Chinese officials from the US and other countries, said a US State Department official on Wednesday.

US Senior Official for APEC Robert Wang said at the Foreign Press Center in Washington that the goal of the current work in the Anti-Corruption and Transparency (ACT) network is to increase the possibility or probability that illegally obtained funds or criminals that go across international borders will be returned and will be treated according to the rule of law in whichever country they came from.

But he emphasized that each side has to understand what the requirements are for doing this, such as the relevant evidence and information that could be used in court.

"Now, how fast that happens, when that happens, is another issue, but that is the goal," he told a press briefing.

"And obviously, if the Chinese were to better understand what kind of evidence is needed, and if they can provide that to us or to any other country, then obviously the chances that they will be repatriated or be brought back will be higher," he added.

An Al Jazeera report in May said that China was seeking help from the US to extradite 1,000 corrupt Chinese officials who have sought refuge in the US. The Chinese government has revved up its anti-corruption campaign since President Xi Jinping assumed office.

Due to a lack of bilateral extradition treaties with China, countries such as the US, Canada and Australia have long become top destinations for corrupt Chinese officials to flee the country's justice system.

Wang, who was deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Beijing from 2011 to 2013, said the US has already worked with China on a lot of cases over the years, including Americans being sent back to the US and Chinese sent back to China. But the number of Chinese sent back to China is comparatively smaller.

US, China to parley on extradition of criminals

"The question then is: how many of them? Of course, the Chinese would like more," he said.

The two countries have already cooperated in this area through the China-US Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation, which meets several times a year.

"And that's where we are already bilaterally exchanging information about each other's practices as well as information on specific cases," said Wang, who just returned from Beijing from APEC's Third Senior Officials (SOM3) meeting, and will go back this weekend for other meetings.

President Obama and leaders of other APEC economies will meet in Beijing on Nov 10 and 11 for the APEC summit.

The US president will then hold bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi on Nov 12, according to Wang.

He emphasized that the US and China are working very closely in the ACT network under APEC.

The purpose of the ACT network is to get all law enforcement officials who are involved in anti-bribery probes in the APEC region together to try to begin a process of information sharing on bribery cases that essentially cross the borders within APEC membership.

"(It's) also to share best practices on how we do things, so we can tackle this issue more seriously and more effectively, and also essentially to bring them together to find out what the various regulations are within each economy."

Wang said he hoped that leaders going to the APEC summit in Beijing will endorse a set of principles on anti-bribery that is very similar to the ones in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), but added this is still undecided.

Jerome Cohen, a law professor at New York University and an expert on China's legal system, told China Daily in an earlier interview that the most difficult obstacle for a bilateral extradition treaty between China and the US will be the American concern about the use of China's criminal justice system to punish people for conduct that is protected in the US as free expression and about the fairness of criminal prosecution in China.

"The best that can be done currently is to negotiate case by case specific guarantees that suit the individual solution," he said."My hope is that criminal justice reforms will continue to be made in China not only in legislation but also in practice and in institutional arrangements that inspire confidence in the development of an independent judiciary and legal profession."

The US is planning to send a high-level delegation to the APEC summit this year. Besides President Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Trade Representative Michael Froman, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will also go to Beijing.