China signs extradition treaty with Spain
BEIJING, Apr 29 (Reuters) In a warning shot to corrupt officials on the run, China's legislature today ratified an extradition treaty with Spain which includes an unprecedented pledge not to execute repatriated criminals, state media said.
The treaty would pave the way for more such judicial cooperation with other Western countries, and help in China's fight to bring back thousands of Chinese officials who had absconded with government funds, the reports said.
''Spain is an influential country in the EU (European Union), and the treaty will effectively deliver the warning to corrupt officials who are at large on foreign lands,'' Deputy Foreign Minister Wu Dawei was quoted as telling parliament's Standing Committee in a report this week.
Beijing's lack of extradition treaties and other countries' misgivings about its widespread use of the death penalty have allowed corrupt officials to escape Chinese dragnets and given the country the world's fourth-most serious problem with capital flight, state media have reported.
A Commerce Ministry report in 2004 said 4,000 officials had escaped China in recent years, taking 5 billion yuan in embezzled funds with them.
A mere fraction have been repatriated. Official figures show that, from 1993 to January 2005, more than 230 Chinese criminal suspects had been sent back, Xinhua said.
Xinhua quoted legal experts today as saying the ratification meant China had committed legally to respect the principle observed by major Western countries not to extradite criminal suspects who would face the death penalty at home.
The treaty marked a major shift in tactics in bringing fugitive corrupt officials to justice, Xu Hong, counsellor with the Department of Treaty and Law under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Xinhua in an interview.
''The treaty will help China weave a global extradition net to bring back corrupt officials who have fled abroad, largely seeking asylum in developed countries in Europe and North America,'' said Xu, who headed the Chinese delegation in the talks with Spain.
President Hu Jintao signed the treaty with Spain in Madrid in November 2005.
One of China's most wanted fugitives, accused smuggling kingpin Lai Changxing, has been fighting extradition from Canada since fleeing there in 1999. China has pledged Lai would not be executed if he were returned and found guilty, but Lai argues Beijing would simply ignore its promise if he were sent back.
This year, Yu Zhendong a former Bank of China manager convicted in the United States before being deported on corruption charges at home, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. China had promised he would not be tortured or executed.
Rights groups say China executes 5,000 to 12,000 people a year, more than any other country.
REUTERS SHB VC1220