China's top anti-graft watchdog released detailed information on 50 fugitives who allegedly engaged in corrupt acts or economic crimes, with 23 of them hiding in the U.S.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) provided a list of 50 fugitives on its website on Wednesday, including their names, photos, ID and passport numbers, when they fled abroad, alleged offenses and possible whereabouts.
Most of the fugitives are suspected of embezzlement, corruption and fraud. Twenty-three fugitives are hiding in the U.S., 11 in Canada, six in Australia, two in Hong Kong, one in Singapore, one in Vietnam, one in Thailand and one in the UK, the CCDI release said.
"The CCDI list proves that China's anti-corruption authorities have acquired the necessary information to hunt down these fugitives," Zhuang Deshui, deputy director at Peking University's Research Center for Government Integrity-Building, told the Global Times on Thursday.
The detailed list could also encourage foreigners and overseas Chinese to monitor the fugitives' behavior and convince them to return to China, Zhuang said.
But experts said it's not that simple to retrieve these fugitives, because China has yet to sign extradition treaties with some of the countries, and a number of fugitives have acquired foreign citizenship.
Among the 50 listed on Wednesday, 21 have been on the run for more than 10 years. For example, He Yejun, former chairman of Tangshan Haomen Group Company, has been hidden in the U.S. since 1999. Suspected of misappropriating public funds, He Yejun fled to the U.S. on May 23, 1999. The CCDI said he could be living in Florida.
According to a May 2015 New York Times report, He Yejun managed to get U.S. citizenship and changed his name to Chen Wei.
Huang Feng, director of the Institute for International Criminal Law with the Beijing Normal University, previously told the Global Times that officials from the fugitives' hometowns should be encouraged to provide evidence and other materials needed for the fugitives to be deported.
Central authorities will handle international negotiations under the auspices of Sky Net and will provide the general framework for lawsuits and repatriation, Huang said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily briefing on Thursday that fugitive repatriation and asset recovery work is an important part of China's anti-corruption campaign and diplomatic work.
China has entered into 79 criminal judicial assistance treaties with 61 countries, and has signed extradition treaties with 50 countries. China also actively took part in making international anti-corruption orders, which help build consensus on cracking down on corruption and enhancing international cooperation, Hua said.
China's Foreign Ministry is sustaining the momentum on promoting international cooperation on anti-corruption, launching "Sky Net" to hunt fugitives to contribute to the anti-graft campaign and safeguard social justice and fairness, Hua said.
Tightening the noose
A central anti-corruption coordination group office in charge of fugitive repatriation and asset recovery also released the same list with a notice on Wednesday, calling on Chinese citizens and overseas Chinese to provide information on the whereabouts of the fugitives and cooperate with authorities to persuade them to return to China.
This is the second time that the office has released such information in a statement. In April 2017, it released information on 22 fugitives listed on an Interpol red notice of 100 suspects, and has since received a number of reports on the fugitives from domestic and overseas informants. Six fugitives have surrendered so far.
Zhuang said China is hunting down fugitives hiding overseas and busting corrupt domestic officials to strengthen the anti-corruption campaign.
"China has established a mechanism to block corrupt officials from escaping, which has led to fewer fugitives in recent years. Governments are more carefully scrutinizing passports of officials and their whereabouts. And customs and bank authorities are working together on holding the bank accounts of officials who intend to flee abroad," Zhuang said.
China's "Sky Net" operations have led to the arrest of 4,141 fugitives from over 90 countries and regions, and recovered nearly 10 billion yuan ($1.56 billion) as of the end of April. Among them, 825 were state functionaries while 52 were on the Interpol red notice, the CCDI said.