Putting extradition treaty on ice won’t help anti-graft drive

By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/29 0:03:39

The Australian government will drop a parliamentary vote to ratify an extradition treaty with China, signed by then prime minister John Howard 10 years ago.

The vote was planned to take place two days after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to the country, during which both sides signed a slew of cooperation agreements. Although Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull believed that the treaty is "an important part of cooperation with China on law enforcement," opposition politicians made it clear they would not support it, citing reasons of possible mistreating corruption suspects and unfair trial.

So far, China has concluded a total of 79 criminal judicial assistance treaties with nearly 60 countries, and has signed extradition treaties with 46 countries, according to figures from China's foreign ministry. If ratified, Australia will become another Western country to enter into an extradition agreement with China, after EU member states such as Spain and France.

Those who are quick to decry China's system miss one point that corruption is a crime in the Chinese system as well as in other systems. China's objective of expanding its network of bilateral extradition treaties is to tighten the noose on corrupt officials.

Under Operation Fox Hunt, China has stepped up requests for international cooperation in hunting down corruption suspects that fled overseas. The US, Canada and Australia are top destinations for crooked officials and executives of State-owned enterprises to seek harbor abroad, due to a lack of treaties and differences in the judicial system. We need to ask how these countries can help China to promote the rule of law if they continue to provide shelter for criminal suspects?

A few years ago when China signed extradition pacts with Spain, Portugal and France amid concerns from the Western countries about China's death penalty, China guaranteed that suspects returned to China for trial would not face the death penalty. After the treaty with France took effect in 2015, Chinese police extradited three fugitives from France in two repatriations in 2016. The case also received media attention in Europe.

So far, the US is still reluctant to sign an extradition treaty with China. Canada has agreed to negotiate one with China, after longstanding opposition. Now Australia has put the deal on ice. While they send a clear message to China that they want fairness and the rule of law, they should also avoid becoming good hiding places for Chinese criminals on the run.

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