Beijing (AFP) – Chinese authorities have called on the public to help track down fugitives abroad by publishing the names, photos and even addresses of 50 high-profile suspects beyond its grasp.
A massive anti-graft campaign launched by President Xi Jinping includes a push to repatriate allegedly corrupt officials who have fled abroad — an effort known as “Sky Net”.
But most Western countries including the United States do not have extradition treaties with China, where courts are overseen by the Communist Party and the use of force by police to extract confessions is believed to be common.
Nearly half of those wanted may be hiding out in the US, with others allegedly on the run in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, according to the party’s corruption watchdog.
The anti-graft agency has set up a new whistleblowing website to collect tips on the suspects’ whereabouts from ordinary people who can choose to remain anonymous.
“The repatriation of foreign fugitives is an important part of the anti-corruption campaign and an important part of our diplomatic work,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing on Thursday.
The watchdog, known as the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), said Wednesday it hopes to “work closely with the masses and actively mobilise them to weave a dragnet so those fleeing with money abroad will have nowhere to hide”.
Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has raised concerns after reports China dispatched law enforcers to other countries to pressure suspects into returning, without notifying overseas governments.
The CCDI said the public and overseas Chinese community had already helped in tracking down and “persuading” some fugitives to return to China after details of 22 suspects were publicised last year — six of whom have been nabbed so far.
By the end of April, the corruption watchdog had altogether “recovered” 4,141 fugitives from more than 90 countries and regions, it said.
California is a hotspot for fleeing Chinese fugitives, the data shows, with eight of 23 suspects in the US thought to be hiding out in the “Golden State”.
Among them is Peng Xufeng, 52, who may be harboured in the sunny community of Chino Hills, where single family homes line sleepy suburban streets.
He is the former chairman of the state-owned Changsha Metro Group, and is alleged to have fled with passports from Saint Kitts and Nevis as well as Cyprus. He is charged with money laundering and accepting bribes.