The United States has repatriated one of China’s most wanted economic fugitives, the ruling Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog said on Friday, signaling that Washington is cooperating with Beijing in China’s corruption crackdown.
The repatriation of Yang Jinjun marked the first time that China has succeeded in getting a person back from the United States since Beijing published a list of 100 wanted economic fugitives in April, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said.
The list is part of “Sky Net”, an initiative the Chinese government unveiled last month to better coordinate its fight against suspected corrupt officials who have fled overseas and to recover their “dirty” assets.
Chinese officials have long complained that China’s anti-corruption fight has been hampered by a reluctance by Western countries to sign extradition treaties. China does not have extradition treaties with the United States or Canada — the two most popular destinations for suspected economic criminals.
Such countries have baulked at signing extradition deals with China, partly out of concern about the integrity of its judicial system and treatment of prisoners. Rights groups say Chinese authorities use torture and that the death penalty is common in corruption cases.
However, the CCDI said in a statement on its website that Sino-U.S. law enforcement and judicial departments had “joined hands in the fight against cross-border corruption offences”.
“The forced repatriation of Yang Jinjun is an important development in the China-U.S. anti-corruption and law enforcement cooperation and has laid an important foundation for cooperation between both sides in this field,” the CCDI said.
The announcement comes days before Chinese President Xi Jinping starts his first state visit to the United States.
Xi launched a sweeping campaign against graft after assuming power in late 2012 but has been hampered to an extent by difficulty in getting corrupt officials and assets back from overseas.
Yang, who fled to the United States in 2001, was the general manager of a company called Minghe Group in the eastern city of Wenzhou, the CCDI said. He is wanted on suspicion of corruption and bribery and had been subject to an Interpol “red notice”.
Officials say only about a dozen people on the “Sky Net” list have been returned to China so far, mostly from countries with close ties to Beijing.