China pushing for cooperation on graft, terrorism
China will push for greater international cooperation in the fight against corruption and terrorism when it hosts Interpol’s general assembly in late September 2017, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the matter. The move comes against a backdrop of concerns that China is using the body for its own goals.
In 2016, the global police cooperation agency elected a senior Chinese public security official, Vice Public Security Minister Meng Hongwei, pictured, as its president. That prompted rights groups to ask whether Beijing could use the position to target dissidents abroad.
Beijing has tried for many years to enlist the help of foreign countries to arrest and deport back to China citizens it accuses of crimes, including corruption and terrorism. The three Beijing-based sources, who are familiar with the planning for the Interpol meeting, said China is likely to make these two areas its focus for the general assembly.
Beijing has faced reluctance, in Western countries in particular, when asking for repatriation of those wanted for alleged crimes in China. Governments and judiciary in these countries have been concerned the Chinese don’t produce evidence acceptable for Western courts, and that defendants might be mistreated and won’t get a fair trial in China amid concerns that allegations can be politically motivated.
Western diplomats familiar with Chinese requests say China sometimes misunderstands that in Western countries it needs to process its demands through the courts.
“They’re often quite surprised to hear that we can’t simply hand them over,” said one diplomat, declining to be named.
China’s security officials have been working to understand the legal requirements of developed countries and international bodies, however, so their requests for expedition become more palatable.
Beijing has also been attempting to build intelligence-sharing relationships with Western countries in the fight against Islamist militants, diplomats say. China is battling what it says are Uighur extremists operating in its far western region of Xinjiang.
Li Shulei, who leads China’s efforts to return those suspected of corruption who live abroad, called for a strengthened international anti-graft cooperation framework.
“We must build a new order to fight international corruption … [and] cut off escape routes for corrupt elements,” he said.
In 2014, China issued Interpol “red notices” for its 100 most-wanted corruption suspects who have fled overseas as part of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping campaign against corruption. Almost half have come back to China, some voluntarily, according to the government.
Interpol says red notices are requests to provisionally arrest suspects pending extradition and are not international arrest warrants. It is up to a member state to act upon an Interpol red notice. They can be ignored if a government decides there is insufficient evidence to act upon them, diplomats say.