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Canada May Deport Key China Figure

November 29, 2000

TORONTO (AP) _ A key figure in China’s biggest corruption scandal should be kept in a Canadian jail until he and his wife can be deported, an immigration official said Tuesday.

Jim Murray, an attorney for Canada’s immigration department, told a hearing on last week’s detention of Lai Changxing and his wife, Tsang Mingna, that the government had been shadowing the pair since they arrived in the country in August 1999.

He said Canada intended to send them back to China because of their alleged involvement in what China says is a multibillion-dollar smuggling ring and links to criminal organizations in Canada.

Lai has been seeking refugee status in Canada because he may face the death penalty if he returns home, his lawyer said.

``Mr. Lai and Ms. Tsang have committed non-political crimes in China punishable by sentences of more than 10 years,″ Murray said at the hearing in Vancouver.

Murray said the immigration agency already had issued a removal order for Lai and Tsang. He said the agency would argue for Lai’s deportation on Lai’s application for refugee status.

The couple failed to mention that they were being sought by Chinese authorities when they submitted their refugee claims, Murray said.

Lai’s lawyer, Alastair Boulton, has said Lai was fleeing unfair charges and would face the death penalty if returned to China. He said China and Canada may be working on a deal in which China would accept the return of illegal Chinese immigrants in Canada if Canada also deported Lai.

Chinese officials have said they wanted Lai to return to face charges, and a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa said Tuesday the government was following Lai’s case. The spokesman, Cai Wei, refused to comment on any possible deal like the one Boulton mentioned.

Chinese prosecutors accuse Lai of running a ring that smuggled $6.4 billion in cars, oil, cigarettes and other products through the port of Xiamen in China’s Fujian province, avoiding $3.6 billion in import taxes. Authorities also accuse Lai of buying official protection in a corruption scheme that reached the top of the ruling communist party.

Following a 15-month investigation, courts in Xiamen and four other cities in Fujian province earlier this month sentenced 11 people to death, including police and government officials. In all, 84 people were convicted in the first round of trials involving the smuggling ring.

Boulton said Lai has not been charged in China. He said the Chinese government had threatened to execute Lai’s brothers if Lai didn’t return to China. Lai denies wrongdoing in China and left to escape being arrested, Boulton said, adding: ``We believe that this is largely politically motivated.″

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