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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang defends use of death penalty as extradition talks continue

Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Li Keqiang attends a welcoming ceremony with military honours in Ottawa on Thursday, September 22, 2016.
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Li Keqiang attends a welcoming ceremony with military honours in Ottawa on Thursday, September 22, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang defended his country’s continued reliance on the death penalty while visiting Ottawa on Thursday, even as he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continue to work toward a formal extradition treaty.

Li was asked about capital punishment in China by reporters on Parliament Hill, and responded that China is one of many nations that still use the death penalty to punish serious crimes.

He cited the country’s enormous population as one of the reasons it has not been abolished, arguing that more innocent people could be hurt if the punishment were not so severe.

“In the society there are often crimes, and violent crimes,” Li added, standing next to Trudeau.

“We maintain that the penalty is consistent with our national conditions and for years the ruling on the death penalty has been very strict.”

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RAW: Chinese premier fields question about death penalty, possible extradition treaty

Click to play video: 'RAW: Chinese premier appears irritated following question about possible extradition treaty' RAW: Chinese premier appears irritated following question about possible extradition treaty
RAW: Chinese premier appears irritated following question about possible extradition treaty – Sep 22, 2016

Li said that movies and television shows may depict torture in the Chinese judicial system, and he cannot guarantee that this never occurs. But his country is moving toward a law-based society.

“Chinese law clearly provides that there must be strict compliance with judicial procedures and there shall be no torture,” the premier said. “Humanitarian treatment must be applied.”

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau dodges questions on extradition discussions with China

The death penalty question may present a serious problem for the Trudeau government as the two countries move toward an extradition treaty. Even the mention of such a treaty has already prompted criticism from human rights groups because of concerns about China’s lack of due process.

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The government recently announced the possible deal after 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 broader security dialogue.

READ MORE: Canada-China extradition treaty: Here’s what you need to know

On Thursday, Trudeau pointed out that Canada and China have been talking about extradition “for years.”

“Up until now, it’s been on an ad-hoc basis,” he explained, adding that under no circumstances will Chinese citizens be sent home to be executed.

“Because we do not have capital punishment in Canada… we will not extradite into situations of capital punishment,” Trudeau said.

“We recognize that Canada and China have different systems of law and order … it will be very important that any future agreement be based on reflecting the realities, the principles, the values that our citizens hold dear in each of our countries.”

WATCH: ‘We will not extradite into situations of capital punishment’: Trudeau

Click to play video: '‘We will not extradite into situations of capital punishment’: Trudeau' ‘We will not extradite into situations of capital punishment’: Trudeau
‘We will not extradite into situations of capital punishment’: Trudeau – Sep 22, 2016

Li agreed that no deal will be signed until both sides can agree.

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“We have been discussing it for many years, it must be based on the national conditions of both countries. The will of both sides.”

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