China announced recently that 40 suspects on a list of 100 wanted fugitives are believed to be hiding in the U.S. The Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection released the list as part of its “Sky Net” anti-corruption operation, as reported by the South China Morning Post.
Gary Chodorow, a Beijing-based immigration attorney, told the Post that China is a top source of immigrants to the U.S. Individuals on the CCDI’s list, who are suspected of crimes, may be able to enter the U.S. through employment-based, family-based, or investment immigration. (Persons convicted of certain crimes are ineligible for U.S. visas.)
The U.S. may be an attractive destination to fugitives because it has no extradition treaty with China. China does have extradition treaties with more than 30 countries, but several Western countries (for example, the U.S., Canada, and Australia) have resisted signing extradition agreements with China in part due to concerns about the use of torture to extract confessions and imposition of the death penalty for nonviolent crimes, as well as the country’s opaque justice system. Beijing says the Western countries “bias” or “misunderstanding” of China’s justice system is the problem.
China has issued Interpol “red notices” for the fugitives on its list. A red notice is like a wanted flyer and can be issued by any country to request the arrest of a fugitive. However, it appears that U.S. immigration authorities may not be aware of whether visa applicants are the subject of red notices. Such notices are only incorporated into the Foreign Fugitive File used by U.S. immigration authorities if the wanting country is a signatory to an extradition treaty with the U.S.
The U.S. has no desire to become a haven for corrupt officials. Despite the lack of an extradition treaty, wanted persons who have fled to the U.S. can be prosecuted there or can be deported for immigration violations.
For example, in the case of Yu Zhendong, former head of a Bank of China branch accused by China of embezzling U.S. $485 million, he pled guilty in Federal court of racketeering and stipulated to a judicial order of deportation to China, which gave assurances he would not be tortured, executed, or serve more than 12 years in prison.
And in the more recent case of Qiao Jianjun, former director of a grain storage facility in China, he and his ex-wife have been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice of immigration fraud–lying in their immigration applications that they were still married and that they earned the source of their investment funds legally.
The U.S. and China signed a judicial agreement on mutual assistance in criminal matters in Beijing in 2000. However, the New York Times reports that it is an evidence-based judicial agreement that requires the country applying for the investigation and possible deportation of an individual to go through a legal process that United States officials say China finds time-consuming and challenging.
In addition, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson recently visited Beijing to discuss a range of law enforcement issues, including facilitating repatriation of fugitives.