Richmond winemaker faces closed-door trial in China; daughter urges Trudeau to intervene

B.C. winemakers imprisoned in China
Wed, May 24: The daughter of a B.C. winemaker says the Canadian government isn’t doing enough to help her father, who is imprisoned in China. Nadia Stewart reports.

The daughter of a Richmond-based winemaker is pleading with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to intervene in her father’s case, now that he’s facing a closed door trial in China on Friday.

John Chang and his wife Allison Lu own Lulu Island Winery in Richmond. They’ve been steadily expanding the business since 2007 and have exported wine to China for the past six years.

Amy Chang, John Chang and Allison Wu.
Amy Chang, John Chang and Allison Wu. Handout

Their daughter, Amy, said there was never a problem. Then, in March 2016, she was shocked to learn that her parents had been detained there.

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“I thought maybe it would be a couple weeks and then it went on for months and I thought oh it won’t last until a couple more months and now it’s been over a year — 14 months,” she said.

The couple have been accused of underreporting the value of their wines, something they deny vehemently.

“We value our goods at the same price as other countries. When you look at the statistics, we don’t undervalue at all. We did not do anything wrong,” Amy said.

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In an email to Global News, a Global Affairs Canada spokesperson said they’re “closely following” the case and have “raised our concerns at a high level with Chinese authorities. Canadian officials are in contact with the relevant Chinese authorities, and are providing consular assistance” to the family.

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They declined to go into detail about any ongoing discussions, citing privacy.

In the House of Commons on Friday, Conservative MP and international trade critic Gerry Ritz says the government should have done more by now.

“The family and the Changs deserve a lot better from this government. They’ve been making application after application, talking about this as a trade issue, not as a consular issue,” Ritz said of the government’s approach to the file. “They constantly get this consular issue drivel that really gets no resolve done.”

READ MORE: 10 years later, family of Canadian in Chinese prison still looking for answers

Allison has been released, but her passport is being withheld. Meanwhile, John faces a closed door trial on Friday.

Richard Kurland, a Vancouver-based foreign affairs policy expert, said the case should serve as a warning to others.

“The lesson is don’t expect Canadian standards of justice in the Chinese system of crime and punishment,” Kurland said.

Chardonnay from Lulu Island Winery.
Chardonnay from Lulu Island Winery. Handout

Still, he expects a resolution is now in the works.

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“The file is ripe for a solution. [John Chang] has been incarcerated and has paid and terrible, physical penalty and the family has suffered,” he said. “Diplomatically, Canada and China [have] been around this merry-go-round. Nothing further would be gained by anyone by maintaining the status quo.”

Amy, now out of options, is appealing to Trudeau to intervene.

READ MORE: Kevin Garratt back in Canada after 2 years in Chinese prison

“My last hope is in putting this in Mr. Justin Trudeau’s hands and see if the can resolve this,” she said.

Amy said a trip to Ottawa next week will also, hopefully, include a meeting with the prime minister.