Zheng Dongqiang, former deputy head of Xiamen public security bureau, is one of the corrupt fugitives who have returned China to plead guilty. [Photo/Chinacourt.org]
Party's top watchdog to repatriate more corrupt officials seeking refuge overseas
China will strengthen judicial cooperation with other countries to repatriate corrupt fugitives after the International Criminal Justice Assistance Law took effect earlier this year, the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said ahead of International Anti-Corruption Day, which fell on Sunday.
The law, which was put into force in October, includes a section on the transfer of fugitives and confiscation of their illicitly gained assets abroad.
The law provides "a domestic legal basis to conduct law enforcement cooperation with relevant countries to extradite and repatriate corrupt fugitives, and seize or return their illicitly gained assets," a senior CCDI official, who declined to provide his name, told China Daily.
"Under the new law, we will enhance communication and information exchanges with Western countries and carry out joint investigation with them on major cases," he said.
Since April 2015, when China launched the Skynet operations to hunt down fugitives, judicial officers have extradited, repatriated or persuaded 4,833 economic-crime fugitives from 125 countries and regions to return and stand trial in China, the CCDI said.
Meanwhile, more than 10.3 billion yuan ($1.49 billion) of illegally acquired assets have been recovered from overseas.
In 2015, Interpol issued red notices for 100 major economic fugitives.
To date, 54 have been brought back from more than 17 countries and regions to face justice, including Yang Xiuzhu, who was brought back to China in November 2016 after 13 years on the run in the United States.
In June, Chinese authorities released information on 50 individuals accused of corruption and/or economic crimes and encouraged the public to provide tips on their whereabouts. Since then, four have been repatriated.
A typical case occurred on Wednesday.
Zheng Dongqiang, former deputy head of Xiamen's public security bureau, Fujian province, returned to plead guilty after two years on the run.
Zheng, 65, was accused of bribery and fled to New Zealand in 2016, then escaped to Malaysia and Hong Kong. He turned himself in and voluntarily returned to seek a more lenient ruling.
According to the CCDI, most of the fugitives are still at large in Western countries, including the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
China will beef up pragmatic cooperation with Western countries and encourage them to sign bilateral extradition treaties or agreements on mutual assistance in criminal cases to help combat cross-border organized crime activity, including apprehending fugitives and recovering their ill-gotten assets.
According to the Foreign Ministry, China has signed 54 bilateral extradition treaties and 63 agreements on mutual assistance in criminal cases with 71 countries.
"Justice will come sooner or later. We encourage fugitives to return and confess their crimes before the end of December to obtain more lenient punishments," the anonymous official said.
The law, which clearly defines the tasks and responsibilities of relevant authorities, is considered "a powerful legal weapon to (help) China and foreign countries hunt down fugitives and cut off the source of their dirty money," said Huang Feng, a law professor at Beijing Normal University.