Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives in Ottawa on Wednesday for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau where the two leaders are expected to discuss a possible extradition treaty between China and Canada.
Canada agreed to negotiate an extradition deal with China, according to a joint statement posted on the prime minister’s website. An extradition treaty has prompted criticism by human rights groups because of concerns about China’s lack of due process, use of the death penalty and torture.
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According to the statement, Trudeau’s national security adviser, Daniel Jean, went to Beijing on Sept. 12 and agreed to start talks about an extradition treaty as part of a security dialogue.
“Extradition is certainly one of the things the Chinese have indicated they want to talk about,” Trudeau told a news conference at the United Nations Tuesday. “As everyone knows, Canada has very high standards in terms of extradition treaties in accordance with our values. But we’re happy to have a high-level security dialogue.”
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As the Chinese premier arrives in Canada for the start of a three-day trip, here is what you need to about an extradition treaty between the two countries.
Why does China want a treaty?
The Chinese government has launched an international campaign to hunt down alleged “economic fugitives” that have fled to other countries.
China estimated in 2014 that 208 people had escaped with an estimated $1.93 million. Amnesty International has said people continued to be sentenced to death and executed in China for certain economic crimes.
Charles Burton, a political science professor at Brock University and a former counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, said the extradition treaty is about a quid-pro-quo between the two countries, including more favourable conditions around canola imports.
“Canada isn’t deciding to do it because we need an extradition treaty,” Burton said. “For one thing, under Chinese extradition law they will not extradite any Chinese nationals to a foreign country under any circumstances.”
“The idea is that if Canada shows goodwill to China by co-operating in this matter, they will give us reciprocal compromises on what we want, which is better access to the Chinese markets for goods and services that are currently blocked by Chinese non-tariffs.”
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China currently does not have extradition treaties with the United States, Britain, New Zealand or Canada.
Media reports on Wednesday showed that Canada has been receptive to removing so-called “economic fugitives” from Canada.
“Canada does not want to be seen as a safe haven for fugitives and it is in Canada’s interest to have such persons removed,” according to a briefing memo obtained by The Canadian Press
The memo prepared by Jean for the previous Conservative government also outlined China’s 2014 anti-corruption campaign, dubbed “Operation Fox Hunt,” in which Chinese President Xi Jinping “vowed to swat down both ‘tigers’ and ‘flies,’ regardless of their level, in efforts to clean up the Communist Party in China.”
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“Over 70 police teams were sent overseas to hunt down these economic fugitives, resulting in the capture of individuals spread out over 69 countries and regions,” the memo said.
Human rights advocates have said China’s real intention is to track down political dissidents who have fled abroad and arrest them.
The Globe and Mail reported Wednesday that China’s security services have been sending undercover agents into Canada using tourist visas to pressure expatriates to return home to face criminal charges.
What do human rights groups say?
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both blasted the idea of Canada pursuing an extradition deal, saying it doesn’t square with China’s rights record, including its widespread use of the death penalty and torture.
“It’s impossible to imagine how you would have an extradition treaty that would line up with Canada’s obligations to not send people to face the death penalty,” Amnesty International secretary general Alex Neve told The Canadian Press.
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According to a report from Death Penalty Worldwide, a research and advocacy group at the Cornell Law School, there were at least 2,400 executions in China in 2014, more than all other countries in the world combined.
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Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Tuesday in the House of Commons that Canada will discuss China’s use of the death penalty during future negotiations.
“With this dialogue, we will be able to push human rights,” Sajjan said. “And when it comes to agreements like this, we will be pushing the issue of the death penalty because human rights is an integral part of our government’s mandate.”
However, Burton said while the Chinese government could provide assurances that suspected criminals sent back to China will be given due process or that prisoners wouldn’t be executed, it would be hard to monitor.
— With files from The Canadian Press