China increases efforts to extradite allegedly corrupt officials
China has signalled its desire to intensify its international search for allegedly corrupt officials who have fled abroad to avoid prosecution. In an annual report the Chinese Procurator-General Cao Jianming commented on recent successes in the extradition of fugitives to China. A 'Fox Hunt' operation was launched in July 2014 to search for allegedly corrupt officials and have those still at large repatriated. Earlier reports said that by the end of last year, 680 fugitives suspected of committing economic crimes had been brought back to China in a six-month international operation.
The Supreme Public Procurator's Office has indicated that its priority for 2015 remains the repatriation of fugitive suspects. The Judiciary shares the Prosecution authority's zeal. Chief Justice Zhou Qiang said the Supreme People's Court would actively participate in the repatriation of fugitive suspects and asset recovery. "Foreign countries must not become a safe haven for the corrupt to escape justice", he said.
At present China does not have an extradition treaty with the UK. However, it is important to note that the simple absence of an extradition treaty is no bar to extradition. The UK authorities can always enter into ad hoc special arrangements with countries that do not have formal extradition arrangements with the UK and indeed in 2012 the first individual was extradited from China to the UK. The UK and China also have established agreements in relation to Mutual Legal Assistance, which facilitate international cooperation between the countries in connection with the investigation and prosecution of crime and also in relation to the restraint and seizure of assets alleged to be proceeds of crime.
Having said that, in light of on-going international concern regarding politically motivated prosecutions and China's Human Rights record, it is likely that any extraditions from the UK to China would be hotly contested and the UK authorities would need to exercise extreme caution in considering any requests.