Corrupt officials: nowhere to run, nowhere to hide

In a move that will hopefully make hundreds of corrupt Chinese officials who fled overseas with their ill-gotten gains extremely nervous, China ratified the U.N. Convention Against Corruption on October 27. The treaty will come into effect on December 14 and is expected to pave the way for increased international cooperation for the extradition back to China of those officials who embezzled public money and fled abroad.

Chinese police authorities have said that, as of the end of 2004, more than 500 Chinese suspects of economic crimes, mostly corrupt officials or executives of state-owned companies, were at large in foreign countries. They took with them a total of 70 billion yuan (US$8.4 billion) of public funds, and only a fraction have been extradited to China.

The U.N. convention contains a variety of measures on international corruption including prevention, the criminalization of specific acts, international cooperation, assets recovery and implementation mechanisms.

Since 1998, only about 70 officials, out of a total of hundreds have been sent back through legal cooperation with other countries. China currently has extradition treaties with a motley collection of only 22 countries. Even the HK SAR Government has failed to agree on such a treaty with the Mainland.

However, there was a positive breakthrough in April when the U.S. arrested the three notorious Bank of China, Kaiping Branch managers and their families on immigration fraud charges. Their arrests followed examination of criminal evidence received from the Chinese police. One of the trio, Yu Zhendong, was escorted to Beijing by U.S. law enforcement officers. In order to secure his extradition, China agreed not to torture or execute him and Yu Zhendong agreed to a a maximum 12-year jail sentence.

The U.S. has long been thought of as a safe haven for Chinese criminals as they have traditionally refused to extradite criminals because of the danger of them being executed. China has always accused the U.S. of hypocracy as many U.S. states practice the death penalty. However, in the case of the three Bank of China Kaiping mangers, China has showed a willingness to guarantee that criminals will not face execution and the U.S. has reponded positively.

Let’s hope that every single Chinese official currently living a life of luxury abroad will be sent back to China to face the lengthy jail terms that they so richly deserve.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 15 Comments

While this does sound like a step forward, I’m wondering how effective it is going to be, and how the Bush administration might look at the idea of repatriating people to China even if they are criminals.

I can’t see the idea of sending anybody back to China sitting well with US pressure groups or voters. I see a potential ACLU case comming.

October 30, 2005 @ 5:09 am | Comment

these scoundrels have been using the human right as excuse to hide in US.

the HK smuggler Lai Cheung Sin had used a lengthy legal process to stay in Canada for over 7 years now. it was said many of those he bribed are still in US and Canada.

October 30, 2005 @ 9:49 am | Comment

Perhaps if China didn’t execute more people in one year than the rest of the world combined in a decade the human rights “excuse” won’t play as well.

It would be good to weed out the high profile cases and bring the bad guys to justice, etc etc. But the real problem lies not in the high profile cases but rather the pervasive corruption that occurs at the mid and lower levels of the system and throughout the whole of society.

October 30, 2005 @ 5:37 pm | Comment

I totally agree with GWBH. Of course, Chinese corrupt officials should be sent back and the money recovered, but it shouldn’t be back to face kangaroo courts and a firing squad. criminals have human rights too.

October 30, 2005 @ 10:24 pm | Comment

GWBH makes a fine point.

Si

No kangaroo courts and no firing squads. If it were like that then the U.S. simply wouldn’t cooperate with China on these cases.

Re the Yu Zhendong case (the guy who stole nearly 1/2 billion US Dollars from his BoC branch) Chinese police went to the U.S. and between Yu Zhendong and his U.S. lawyers agreed on a pre-trial bargain, i.e. no torture, no execution and a maximum of 12 years in prison. Sweet.

His two other partners in crime turned dowm similar offers involving 20 and 25 year jail terms. They will instead wait in their Nevada detention centre facing trial in January for immigration fraud – together with their families. It’s still not decided whether they will be sent back to China but the Chinese police feel that it’s a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’.

As long as China gives guarantees not to totture or execute them (which it seems to be willing to do) then I can’t see a problem. These guys stole an estimated US$4 billion from state banks and have been on several Las Vegas gambling sprees where they lost US$1 million each time.

Send them back to China I say!

October 30, 2005 @ 11:01 pm | Comment

GWBH’s main point was paragraph two not the first paragraph

October 30, 2005 @ 11:26 pm | Comment

Also, a steady stream of high-profile cases of corrupt officials returning to Beijing to face the music might show others tempted to embezzle funds and flee overseas (particularly to the U.S.) that there is no safe haven for them and if they do run there’s a good chance that they will be sent back.

We’re not talking about small amounts of cash here, we’re talking about billions of U.S. dollars of Chinese state funds being stolen and taken abroad every year.

October 30, 2005 @ 11:49 pm | Comment

No, the amounts aren’t small. I’m absolutely in favour of bringing those people to justice. However, I don’t think it will be a deterrent becasue future embezzlers will probably feel that they won’t get caught.

I still think the real problem lies not with the theft of large amounts of money from the banking system but rather with the all pervasive thefts from individuals and small business under the guise of fees, taxes, licenses, permits, ambiguous legislation, consulting requirements, etc.

Eg, a small increase in the cost of rural tuition will cause less students to be enrolled in primary schools which will in the long run be more detrimental to the health of the nation than the loss of a billion or two USD.

October 31, 2005 @ 12:11 am | Comment

GWBH has a great point.

the problem now is the cost to pursue these criminal may be too high. (compared to the fund embezzled)
the extradiction process has to be made easier.

October 31, 2005 @ 12:38 am | Comment

Daily linklets October 31st

Hong Kong authorities see no problem with opium in prisons. How to profit in China…for Hong Kong factory owners to cheat on their absentee owners. Self-censorship in defense of press freedom. A review of the upcoming meeting between Bush and Hu. Wha…

October 31, 2005 @ 12:44 am | Comment

Has anybody considered the fact that not everybody accused of corruption in China is actually corrupt.

The journalists Yu Huafeng and Gao Qinrong were both accussed of bribery and corruption in revenge for their reporting and were thrown in jail for a long time.

Corruption is difficult to disprove from a distance because it has no physical traces, and it is a good tool that can be used to blacken the character of somebody who has fallen foul of Beijing.

October 31, 2005 @ 5:14 am | Comment

If I were Washington, I might encourage corrupt senior official to flee to America and use them as a source of inside information about Beijing and its workings.

Just imagine the what coupe it would be if a corrupt general fled to America.

October 31, 2005 @ 5:17 am | Comment

Maybe now China will be willing to extradite some of Taiwan’s corrupt power elite who are hiding out there while waiting for the sky to turn blue again…

But probably not.

October 31, 2005 @ 8:11 am | Comment

ACB,

i am sure washington is already doing it.


yes, those charges on Southern Weekend editors are problematic.

October 31, 2005 @ 11:14 am | Comment

… but the innocents like Southern Weekend editor do not flee to USA.
CCP persecuted them for staying and doing the good job they have been doing.

October 31, 2005 @ 11:17 am | Comment

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