Beijing has criticized a decision by Canada to grant a work permit to a Chinese citizen charged with smuggling and considered one of the country’s most wanted fugitives, the Beijing News reported yesterday.
“Canada’s conduct has prompted the strong disapproval of the Chinese people and China is extremely concerned by the Canadian decision,” the newspaper quoted foreign ministry spokesman Jiang Yu (姜瑜) as saying.
Yu said that although Canada had insisted it was not a refuge for criminals, “the attitude shown by Canada is totally different”.
Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said on Thursday that authorities had decided to give Lai Changxing (賴昌星) a visa. Canada’s courts have refused to deport him, citing concerns over China’s treatment of prisoners.
Kenney said Lai “got a work permit from officials out of our Vancouver office,” in accordance with court rulings that in some circumstances allow foreigners blocked from deportation to be granted a work permit.
Normally, foreign criminal suspects are not granted refugee status by Canada and are deported to the country seeking to prosecute them.
But China’s use of the death penalty and reputed abuse of prisoners has made Canadian courts reject Lai’s deportation.
Lai and his family fled to Canada in 1999 after China accused him of masterminding a US$6 billion smuggling ring.
Canadian officials refused Lai and his ex-wife Tsang Mingna (曾明娜) refugee status on grounds they were mere “common criminals,” but attempts to extradite them and their three children have been repeatedly blocked by Canadian courts.
The case has long been a diplomatic thorn between Canada and China and a focus of attention for international human rights groups.
China gave Canada a rare diplomatic assurance it would not execute Lai if he was found guilty, but a Canadian judge ruled in 2007 that risk assessments in the case failed to address the possibility that Lai might be tortured in China.