BEIJING (Reuters) - China has been given a political promise by Western countries that they will not become havens for corrupt fugitives, a senior official told state television, though he offered no assurances to assuage concerns about mistreatment of suspects.
China has vowed to pursue an overseas search dubbed Operation “Fox Hunt” for corrupt officials and business executives, and their assets, part of President Xi Jinping’s war on deep-seated corruption.
It has been pushing for extradition treaties but Western countries have been reluctant to help, not wanting to send people to a country where rights groups say mistreatment of suspects is a concern.
Canada, the United States and Australia are popular destinations where Chinese graft suspects have fled, whose governments have insisted China goes through the proper legal process if it wants them back.
Speaking on the latest episode of state television’s eight-part documentary on China’s graft fight shown late Monday, Liu Jianchao, in charge of China’s efforts to repatriate graft suspects, said the corruption fight needed global efforts.
“Certain Western countries have clearly stressed that they do not want to become a haven for corrupt elements. This is an extremely important accomplishment, and is an extremely important political promise,” Liu said.
He made no mention of how China plans to address concerns about its legal system, especially mistreatment of suspects.
The government this month unveiled new plans to once again try and stop confessions through torture.
Torture has also been a problem in the Communist Party’s own internal judicial system, laid bare in a 2013 case in which six interrogators were charged with drowning a man by repeatedly dunking him in a bucket of ice-cold water.
Liu said cooperation would be good for all countries.
“We need other countries support, and at the same time other countries anti-graft work needs China’s support. On this issue I think it’s mutually beneficial and win-win.”
China’s own actions have contributed to Western reluctance to help.
Liu told Reuters in an interview last year that China had been changing its tactics in hunting down graft fugitives, after complaints from countries that objected to Beijing’s practice of sending investigators to track them down, often without the host countries knowledge.
China has been trying to encourage graft suspects to voluntarily come home.
Part of Monday night’s program also showed an interview with Wang Guoqiang, a provincial official who turned himself in 2014 after two years on the run in the United States, describing how miserable his life there was living in constant fear of discovery as an illegal immigrant.
“Thinking about this every day, isn’t that what you’d call desperation?” Wang said.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry