China may use local courts in the United States to sue economic fugitives who have fled there, despite a lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries, said China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The unusual move is part of the “Operation Fox Hunt 2014” launched in July to track down corrupt officials who have fled overseas with their illicit gains.
The fugitives were urged to surrender before December 1 in exchange for leniency. As the deadline approached, China’s foreign ministry called on western nations to assist in its pursuit of the fugitives.
Xu Hong, director general of the foreign ministry’s Department of Treaty and Law, said that the U.S. and some western countries have been reluctant to extradite or repatriate Chinese fugitives due to the lack of extradition treaties and prejudices of their lawmakers and judges because of China’s frequent imposition of the death penalty for economic crimes.
China has extradition treaties with 38 countries including France, Spain and Italy, but not with Canada, Australia and the U.S., the three “paradises” for Chinese fugitives.
China hoped to sign an extradition treaty with the U.S. but it “seems not ready yet,” Xu said. As a result, China may use alternative methods including suing the fugitives in U.S. courts and letting them be tried under the U.S. civil law.
Australia agreed in October to help China seize and expropriate assets of Chinese economic fugitives who have fled there. An extradition treaty between the two countries has been signed but ratification is still pending in the Australian parliament, according to Xu.
Sources: Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Global Times, Xinhua News
Hui Zhi is the Senior Manager for Content with the China Compliance Digest, where a version of this post first appeared.